The Rise of Gray Divorce: What the Statistics Tell Us About Late-Life Separation

July 26, 2023by Adam Sacks

What Is Gray Divorce?

Gray divorce is a term used to describe the end of a long-term marriage among aging couples. The United States divorce rate has shown a consistent decrease in recent years, while the rate of gray divorces has experienced a significant rise.

Studies show that married people who have been together for a long time have a higher likelihood of experiencing unhappiness and dissatisfaction with bad marriages. In this article, we will delve into the world of gray divorce and the statistics that reveal just how common late-life separation has become.

What is Gray Divorce?

Gray Divorce Statistics

1. More than one in three people who divorce in the United States are older than 50.

2. People 55 years old and older currently account for 25% of all divorces, with 1 in 10 being 65 or older.

3. Women ages 63 and above who are divorced have a poverty rate of 27%, which is higher than any other group of that age, including widows. This rate is nine times higher than the poverty rate for couples who remain married. For gray-divorced men, the poverty rate was 11.4%.

4. Older men often experience a 21% decrease in their standard of living following a divorce. This differs from earlier studies that showed little to no impact on younger men’s incomes.

5. The divorce rate has increased significantly for middle-aged adults ages 50 and older since the 1990s.

6. According to a report by the US Census Bureau, 39 percent of adults aged 65 to 74 years old, and nearly a quarter of those aged 74 and older, have experienced divorce.

7. Individuals between the ages of 55 to 64 had the highest divorce rates, reaching approximately 43%, regardless of gender.

8. Around 20% of women aged 65 or older, who are divorced, have lower financial security (Compared to married women), and live in poverty.

9. According to a study conducted in 2020, individuals who experienced a gray divorce, regardless of gender, experienced a significant and immediate decrease in their wealth by 50%.

10. According to statistics, women initiate over 60% of gray divorces.

Gray Divorce Statistics

1. Over 1/3 of people who divorce in the United States are older than 50.

The rise of gray divorce, or late-life separation, has become an increasingly common phenomenon in the United States. According to research published in the Journals of Gerontology in September 2022, more than one in three people who divorce in the United States are older than 50. This rate is significantly higher than it was several decades ago when only one out of every ten couples had a marital dissolution after the age of 50. [1]

The reasons for the rise in gray divorce are varied and complex, but there are some significant factors at play. One reason is that people are living longer lives and have more years to potentially spend in a relationship. This means that couples may be more likely to reach a breaking point due to issues such as diverging values, priorities, or lifestyle choices that have developed over time.

The social stigma of divorce has also decreased in recent years, making it easier for people to pursue a separation without feeling ashamed. As the economy has improved in recent decades, people over 50 have more financial freedom and independence that may lead them to seek a different life path than staying married.

2. Individuals aged 55 and above presently represent 25% of all divorces, with 1 in 10 being 65 or older.

The gray divorce rate accounts for 25% of all divorces, with 1 in 10 being 65 or older. [2]

The reasons for the increase in older divorces are varied and may include changes in attitudes about marriage, late-in-life realizations about incompatibility with one’s spouse, empty nest syndrome, increased life expectancy and financial security, or simply falling out of love.

Many people over 50 have also experienced divorce before and may feel more comfortable with the idea of separating from their current partner.

3. Based on a study conducted in 2017, the poverty rate for women aged 63 and above in the United States who are divorced is 27%, which is higher than any other group in that age category, including widows.

The consequences of gray divorce can be significant for those affected. According to a study conducted in 2017, women aged 63 and above who are divorced and gray-haired have a poverty rate of 27%, which surpasses that of any other group in that age range, including widows. This rate is nine times higher than the poverty rate for couples who remain married. For gray-divorced men, the poverty rate was 11.4%. [3]

Gray divorces can have serious financial implications for those involved and it’s important to take the necessary steps to protect one’s finances during a separation.

4. In case of a divorce, older men generally experience a notable decrease of 21% in their standard of living, contrasting previous studies that indicated minimal or no impact on the incomes of younger men.

For older men, the financial impact of the divorce experience can be particularly devastating. Several studies have found that men over the age of fifty tend to experience a significant decrease in their standard of living following a divorce. In some cases, this decrease is as high as 21%. This differs from earlier studies which found that younger men were largely unaffected by divorces when it came to their incomes. [4]

5. According to the Pew Research Center, the divorce rate has shown a significant increase for American adults aged 50 and older since the 1990s.

According to the Pew Research Center, the odds of divorce for those over 50 have increased significantly since the 1990s. It is estimated that one in four divorces now involve adults ages 50 and older, compared with one in 10 in the 1990s. [5]

This increase in late-life divorce has been attributed to a variety of factors, including changing attitudes about marriage and increased financial security for some couples. It has also been suggested that with longer life expectancies, couples are more willing to end an unsatisfactory marriage rather than remain together for the rest of their lives.

6. A US Census Bureau report said 39 percent of adults 65 to 74 years old, and nearly a quarter of those 74 and older, have been divorced.

The US Census Bureau notes the increase in divorce as well. Their report highlights that a staggering 39 percent of adults aged 65 to 74 years old have gone through a divorce, while nearly a quarter of those aged 74 and older have also experienced the dissolution of their marriages.

The findings suggest that the traditional notion of older adults staying together until the end of their lives is evolving, making it important for us to examine the reasons behind this rise and its implications for individuals and society as a whole. [6]

7. According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the divorce rates for individuals aged 55 to 64 were around 43%, regardless of gender.

Based on information from the U.S. Census Bureau, individuals between the ages of 55-64 had the highest divorce rates (around 43%), regardless of gender. This is a staggering statistic, considering that this age group of married people was least likely to separate back in 1990; only about 13% of individuals aged 55 to 64 were divorced. [7]

8. Approximately 20% of women aged 65 or older who are divorced experience financial insecurity and poverty, in contrast to married women.

This increase in late-life separation comes with significant financial implications for those involved. One such consequence is a decrease in financial security. The study found that around 20% of women aged 65 or older, who are divorced, face lower financial security and live in poverty in comparison to married or widowed women. [8]

9. Based on a study conducted in 2020, individuals who went through a gray divorce, regardless of gender, saw a substantial and immediate decrease in their wealth by 50%.

Grey divorce issues are becoming more and more common in the US. In fact, according to a study conducted in 2020, individuals who experienced a gray divorce (regardless of gender) experienced a significant and immediate decrease in their wealth by 50%. It was also found that older adults who divorced were more likely to experience poverty after the split than those who remained married. [9]

10. Based on statistical data, women are responsible for initiating over 60% of gray divorces.

Gray divorce, or the separation of couples who have been married for 20 years or more, has been gaining traction in recent years as more couples feel the pressures of empty nests and stagnant relationships. Statistics show that women are increasingly initiating these late-life separations, with over 60% of gray divorces being initiated by women. [10]

This statistic speaks to the changing landscape of family dynamics and marriage in the United States. Previous generations of aging women were dependent on their spouses for their livelihood. As more older women become financially independent, it appears that they take control of their relationships and exercise their right to end unhappy marriages if need be. This shift in gender roles and expectations can have far-reaching implications for family law and couples therapists.

If you are looking for a divorce attorney in Jacksonville, contact us for a free consultation.

Sources:

[1] Upham, B., & MD, A. Y. (2023, June 2). ‘Gray Divorce’ Is on the Rise: How to Strengthen Your Relationship at Any Age. EverydayHealth.com. https://www.everydayhealth.com/emotional-health/why-more-couples-are-divorcing-at-older-ages-than-before-and-what-you-can-do-to-avoid-it/

[2] Gray Divorce: A Growing Risk Regardless of Class or Education. (n.d.). Gray Divorce: A Growing Risk Regardless of Class or Education. https://contemporaryfamilies.org/growing-risk-brief-report/

[3]  Colson, B. (2019, September 12). Gray Divorce: The Complete Guide ([year]). Survive Divorce. https://www.survivedivorce.com/gray-divorce

[4] The ‘gray divorce’ can be hazardous to your health. (n.d.). The Detroit News. https://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/personal-finance/2019/07/22/personal-finance-divorce-fifty-devastating/39705307/

[5] Led by Baby Boomers, divorce rates climb for America’s 50+ population. (2017, March 9). Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2017/03/09/led-by-baby-boomers-divorce-rates-climb-for-americas-50-population/

[6] ‘Gray divorce’ brings struggles and a possibility of late-in-life reinvention. (2022, November 19). The Boston Globe. Retrieved July 8, 2023, from https://www.bostonglobe.com/2022/11/19/lifestyle/gray-divorce-brings-struggles-possibility-late-in-life-reinvention/

[7] Bureau, U. C. (2021, April 22). Number, Timing and Duration of Marriages and Divorces. Census.gov. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2021/marriages-and-divorces.html

[8] Social Security Administration Research, Statistics, and Policy Analysis. (2012, February 1). Social Security Administration Research, Statistics, and Policy Analysis. https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v72n1/v72n1p11.html

[9] Lin IF, Brown SL. The Economic Consequences of Gray Divorce for Women and Men. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2021 Nov 15;76(10):2073-2085. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbaa157. PMID: 32906147; PMCID: PMC8599059. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8599059/

[10] Hershman. (2020, October). Family Therapy Magazine: Vol. Vol. 19 number 5 [Magazine]. https://ftm.aamft.org/gray-divorce-splitting-up-in-later-life/

by Adam Sacks

Adam Sacks is lead Family Law Attorney at Law Offices of Sacks & Sacks, P.A. in Jacksonville, Florida. He has a BA in Psychology from 1994, and received his Juris Doctor Degree in 1999 from the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School.

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1646 Emerson St. Suite B Jacksonville, FL 32207

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