The term “grey divorce” has cropped up in the media quite a lot in recent years. It is noteworthy because couples over the age of 50 are the only demographic that has seen an increase in the number of divorces. In the 1990s, for example, only 10% of people over 50 were divorced. Now that number is closer to 25% with experts predicting that the number will continue to rise.
Why is this happening?
The reasons for grey divorce are as varied and nuanced as any divorce because it reflects the nature of a couple’s relationship. Nevertheless, along with the usual reasons for a derailed marriage (infidelity, addiction, incompatibility), there are some common reasons unique to grey divorce:
- A difference of opinion in how they wish to spend their retirement years
- A couple grows apart as the kids grow up and move out
- Longer life expectancy and better health means there is still time to find new interests and seek new partners
There are also unique challenges
It can be quite liberating to start over. However, the life trajectory of couples in their 50s also means that there are unique challenges:
- Money: Couples saving for retirement, saved with the idea of supporting one household. Dividing that money means that they may have to work longer or live more modestly than they had planned.
- Work: People are at the top of their earning potential at this time, but it may not last as the window of opportunity closes. Moreover, a spouse who has not had a career outside the home in decades may have trouble finding a job to support themselves.
- Family: Grown children and grandchildren may have a difficult time understanding this decision.
- Insurance: The non-breadwinner spouse will need to find new health insurance (if they can afford it) after the divorce.
Making good decisions is essential
Couples divorcing at this point in life ideally have a good working (if no longer loving) relationship. This may mean that they can mediate an agreement rather than piling on the additional expense of litigation. However, so many decisions regarding the above issues have increasing importance. It is especially vital for couples to protect their interests and ensure that the settlement is fair and equitable.