Written by attorney John Clayton Zinda

Gray divorce: middle aged and elderly divorce rates rising

In the words of Agatha Christie, “I have enjoyed greatly the second blooming… suddenly you find--at the age of 50, say--that a whole new life has opened before you."

The news that has been making headlines lately concerns the divorce rates of middle aged and elderly individuals. Just consider these statistics:

  • In the past 20 years, the divorce rate among baby boomers has surged more than 50%
  • About a third of adults ages 46 through 64 were divorced, separated or had never been married in 2010 compared with 13% in 1970
  • A quarter of all divorces are by couples wed twenty years or more
  • A 2004 AARP study found that 66% of divorce filings were made by wives

According to the Journal of Gerontology, “Baby boomers were the first cohort to divorce and remarry in large numbers during young adulthood. Now, they are aging into their fifties and sixties, and this portends that a growing number of older adults will experience divorce because remarriages are more likely than first marriages to end through divorce."

Several reasons older couples get divorced included: empty nest, midlife crisis, illness, and Medicaid eligibility.

Empty nest is a significant factor, because couples who get married young and start a family right away often do not realize how much they as a couple have grown apart until the children grow up, leave the house, and they no longer have a common, unifying goal (rearing the children).

Women cite emotional abuse and infidelity as a leading factor for divorce. Men, on the other hand, often cite incompatibility and loss of love. In the words of one woman, “The husband or wife becomes romantically involved with a younger person who they think brings a certain excitement they don’t have in their current marriage."

When it comes to illness, a couple will often divorce after one spouse becomes ill or if they lose a child. These experiences are often so devastating that the couple cannot recover. While stress is one factor, the financial strain of paying medical bills is another. When a couple divorces, an ill spouse can be covered by Medicaid whereas the financially stable spouse can move on with their life.

Another factor that can cause an older couple to pursue a divorce is each other’s financial habits--from overspending on credit cards to negative habits such as gambling or wasting money on strip clubs. Surprisingly, many older couples want a divorce because one spouse is addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Because individuals are living longer, they are more intently evaluating their lives. Regardless of your age, if you need counsel and guidance while pursuing a divorce, you should secure the aid of a competent divorce attorney on your side immediately.

Free Q&A with lawyers in your area

Avvo child custody email series

Can’t find what you’re looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer