What’s Gray Divorce?

  •   |   Meghan Freed

Updates November 26, 2023

Sometimes the media refers to divorce after 60 as “gray divorce.” Gray divorce is becoming more prevalent and presents some unique considerations. Freed Marcroft’s divorce attorneys are experienced with the issues and questions that often loom large in gray divorce.  We know that divorce can affect spouses’ futures in ways that younger couples may not face.

If you’re a senior considering a divorce, you’re not alone. According to one study by Bowling Green State University, the divorce rate for U.S. residents ages 50 and older has doubled in the past twenty years.

Read on to learn more.

Definition of Gray Divorce

Gray divorce, also known as silver or late-life divorce, is the dissolution of a marriage between couples who are over 50 years old. In the past, it was rare for couples in this age group to divorce, but societal shifts and changing attitudes toward marriage have contributed to the rise of gray divorce. While some couples may have been in unhappy marriages for years, others may have experienced a shift in priorities or personal growth that led to the decision to separate.

Gray divorce often involves unique challenges compared to divorce at a younger age. Couples who have been married for decades may have accumulated significant assets, such as retirement funds and properties, making the division of property more complex. Additionally, the emotional impact of gray divorce can be particularly profound, as individuals navigate feelings of loss, uncertainty, and the prospect of starting over.

Gray Divorce & Alimony

Connecticut courts more often provide for alimony, or spousal support, in long-term marriages. On the other hand, Connecticut law provides an interplay between alimony and property division. In other words, if a couple is retired, we may primarily rely on their existing assets to secure their financial futures. In either case, it’s important to prepare for a conversation about alimony and whether and how it might inform your future plans.

Retirement Funds & Gray Divorce

Retirement assets make up a significant portion of many Connecticut families’ financial portfolios. The most common misconception out there is that Connecticut courts divide property 50/50. In fact, Connecticut does not have a default rule that judges must divide property 50/50.

Connecticut is an “equitable distribution” and an “all property” state. “Equitable” does not mean equal, or even half, but rather what the Superior Court considers fair. “All property” means that the courts have jurisdiction over all the property that both spouses have, marital and separate.

Typically, only one spouse’s name is on retirement assets.  Therefore, it’s important to know that we can transfer those assets to the other spouse during divorce.

Read: Divorce and Alimony After Retirement

Adult Children & Divorce

Although your children may be adults, the divorce may still affect your relationship with your children – both personally and financially. For instance, if you and your spouse are providing financial support for an adult child, you’ll need to discuss the terms of this support during the divorce. You’ll also need to be prepared to talk to your kids about the divorce and its implications for your future. Even though they are adults, your children will have their own emotions around your divorce. Support your relationship by keeping your legal discussions between you and your divorce attorney.

Update Your Estate Plan

Your estate plan may include your spouse as your executor, or it may divide your assets in a way you wouldn’t want after the divorce is complete. Make sure the lawyer who handles your estate plan knows about your divorce.

Factors Contributing to the Rise of Gray Divorce

Several factors have contributed to the increasing prevalence of gray divorce. One major catalyst is the empty nest syndrome, which refers to the feelings of loss and emptiness parents experience when their children leave home. With their children grown and independent, couples may find that they have grown apart or no longer have a common purpose, leading to a reevaluation of their relationship.

Another factor is the changing social norms surrounding marriage. In the past, divorce was stigmatized, and couples often felt societal pressure to stay together for the sake of appearances or due to religious beliefs. However, as societal attitudes have shifted, divorce has become more socially acceptable, allowing individuals to pursue happiness and personal fulfillment even later in life.

Infidelity is another common factor contributing to gray divorce. With longer life expectancies and increased opportunities for social interaction, some individuals may find themselves tempted to seek companionship or emotional connection outside of their marriages. Infidelity can lead to a breakdown of trust and communication, ultimately resulting in the decision to divorce.

Finally, Americans are simply living longer.  The partner that was the right fit in your 20s and 30s may not be in your 60s and 70s.  More people are choosing to prioritize their happiness and fulfillment throughout their whole life.

Emotional Challenges of Gray Divorce

Gray divorce can be an emotionally challenging experience for all parties involved. After spending decades together, individuals may find themselves grappling with a sense of loss, grief, and uncertainty about the future. The end of a long-term marriage can bring up a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, and fear.

For many, gray divorce represents a significant life transition that requires a reevaluation of their identity and purpose. After years of being part of a couple, individuals may struggle with their newfound single status and the need to redefine themselves outside of their marriage. This process of self-discovery and reinvention can be both liberating and overwhelming.

It is essential for individuals going through gray divorce to seek emotional support and professional guidance. Therapists, support groups, and divorce coaches can provide valuable resources and tools to help navigate the emotional challenges that arise during this time. By acknowledging and processing their feelings, individuals can begin to heal and move forward in their journey of self-discovery.

Navigating Co-Parenting and Blended Families After Divorce

Gray divorce often involves unique challenges when it comes to co-parenting and blended families. While couples divorcing later in life may no longer have minor children, they may have adult children or grandchildren who are affected by the divorce.

Effective communication and cooperation between ex-spouses are crucial in maintaining healthy relationships with adult children and grandchildren. Open and honest conversations can help address any concerns or emotions that arise during this transition. Additionally, seeking professional guidance from family therapists or counselors can provide valuable insights and strategies for navigating these complex dynamics.

For some, gray divorce may also involve blending families with new partners. This can introduce further complexities and adjustments. Patience, understanding, and a willingness to adapt to new family dynamics are essential in fostering harmony and building strong relationships.

The Impact of Gray Divorce on Adult Children

Gray divorce not only affects the divorcing couple but also has a significant impact on adult children. While adult children may no longer be financially dependent on their parents, the emotional toll of their parents’ divorce can be substantial.

Adult children may experience feelings of grief, guilt, and confusion as they navigate their own emotions and witness the transformation of their family dynamic. It is important for parents to maintain open lines of communication with their adult children, providing reassurance, understanding, and support during this challenging time.

Family therapy or counseling can be beneficial for both parents and adult children, allowing them to address and process their emotions in a safe and constructive environment. Through open and honest conversations, families can work towards rebuilding and strengthening their relationships post-divorce.

Read: 5 Things Adult Children of Divorce Should Know

Next Steps

Gray divorce is a complex and multifaceted journey that involves love, loss, and liberation. As individuals navigate the challenges and emotions associated with ending a long-term marriage, it is crucial to seek support, take care of oneself, and embrace the possibilities of a new chapter.

By understanding the factors contributing to the rise of gray divorce, considering the emotional and financial challenges involved, and seeking professional guidance, individuals can navigate this transition with resilience and grace. With the right support and resources, gray divorce can be a catalyst for personal growth, self-discovery, and the pursuit of a fulfilling and authentic life.

For more information about Connecticut divorce and family law, check out our Divorce Information and Facts. If you have questions or want to learn more about how our team of divorce attorneys can help you with your divorce or Post Judgment issue, please contact us here.

Together, we can navigate the complexities of gray divorce and embrace the opportunities that lie ahead.

Freed Marcroft LLC

Freed Marcroft LLC