According to an article recently published by CNN Health, more baby boomers are living alone. While there are many reasons contributing to this shift, a main factor is something called Gray Divorce. High-profile Gray Divorce cases include those of Bill and Melinda Gates, Al and Tipper Gore, and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver. But what is Gray Divorce and what is behind the phenomenon?
Gray Divorce is a term coined by researchers Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Lin in a 2021 study, referring to divorces occurring in the over 50 population. The study found the divorce rate among persons over 50 doubled from 1990 to 2010, and nearly tripled for persons over 65, despite divorce rates trending down in the overall United States population. And the Gray Divorce revolution is still on the rise. According to Brown, “[w]ell over a third of people who are getting divorced are now over the age of 50.”
Views vary about the factors contributing to the rising rates of Gray Divorce, and there are several explanations cited by family law attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial analysts. Some of these reasons include considerations such as baby boomers are more likely to remarry after divorce; older couples experience “empty nest syndrome” as adult children move out to attend college or join the workforce; many couples struggle to adjust to retired life; women are gaining more economic opportunities and financial freedom; and, many older couples were socially conditioned to uphold more traditional values but in society today views about marriage and divorce are shifting. It is anticipated that the Gray Divorce trend will continue to increase as Baby Boomers age, raising important questions about what comes next for those divorcing later in life.
While divorcing at any age requires navigating the complex nature of the family law system, Gray Divorce presents a unique set of issues for the over 50 population. These unique challenges include: issues relating to spousal support, which may be more complex especially for those leaving long marriages or are in your retirement years; dividing pension plans and retirement accounts, which may require a more complex analysis for a long marriage, especially when a person has held multiple jobs over the years; finding affordable healthcare insurance (if you do not qualify for Medicare); social security, which requires application of federal law and a look at age and length of marriage to determine benefits; and, property division, which may require determining which assets are community property, for such assets acquired during the marriage, or separate property such as pre-marital assets, or inheritances.
See Bartholomew & Wasznicky’s blog article published April 2023 for additional information regarding the unique financial challenges and considerations facing those going through a Gray Divorce.
Whether you are considering a Gray Divorce or are among the growing numbers of the over 50 population having been served with divorce papers, an experienced family law attorney, mediator, or collaborative divorce specialist can provide beneficial insight.l