The Rise of Gray Divorce

Posted On September 15, 2020 Divorce

Over the past 25 years, the divorce rate has dropped among younger couples, but the rate of “gray divorce” between adults 50 and older has more than doubled. This growing social trend toward divorce may be surprising, since most have already raised families and achieved financial stability. However, there are many different reasons why this type of divorce on the rise. 

What is Gray Divorce?

The sudden jump in couples divorcing in mid-life, between the ages of 50 through age 70 or after decades of marriage, is now categorized as “gray divorce.” The gray divorce rate has increased by over 109% for couples over the age of 50.

Reasons for Divorce Later in Life

There are several factors contributing to the rise in gray divorce: 

Increased Life Expectancy

Life expectancy has increased by about 20 years, with women being expected to live until 81 and men until 79. Whereas back in 1930, it was only 61 for women and 58 for men. With all of this additional time, couples are questioning how they would like to spend the rest of their lives and if that remaining time should be spent with their spouse. Especially if their home is now an “empty nest,” with their adult children living elsewhere. 


Money issues can be problematic and lead to discord in any marriage. Particularly, if financial mistakes are made as a couple is approaching retirement . 

Women Are More Independent

Approximately 54 percent of women with children under the age of 5 were working by 1994. As more and more women are financially autonomous, they don’t have to rely on a man for support. This has resulted in many women having the freedom to choose whether they would like to remain in a marriage, beyond the reason of financial dependence. 

Not Willing To Settle

The “gray” generation statistically got married younger, had children early on and did not live together prior to being married. They also would often stay in unhappy marriages for either the sake of their children or honoring the commitment they made. This is opposed to what has become much more commonplace, which is couples getting married later in life, living together beforehand, waiting to have children, and choosing to divorce when they are unhappy. 


Staying in a marriage when unhappy can also lead to infidelity or falling in love with someone else. However, even if a spouse doesn’t cheat during the marriage, a lack of paired sexual desire can be a reason why divorce takes place. 


Many marriages fall apart when a spouse prioritizes an addiction over their relationship. Whether the dependency is on alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography, all have the ability to derail a marriage. As people get older and don’t have as much of a social life and are not as physically active, an addiction may easily develop as a form of escape. 

Gray Divorce Statistics

  • Since 1990, the gray divorce rate has more than doubled.
  • 1 in 10 people over the age of 50 were divorced in 1990, compared to 1 in 4 people over the age of 50 being divorced in 2010. 
  • Remarriages are at a higher risk of divorce. The likelihood for a divorce in a first marriage is 50%, in a second marriage 67%, and a third marriage 73%. 
  • Nearly 70% of older Americans believe divorce is morally acceptable, compared to in 2001 when only 48% thought so. 
  • Women initiate two of every three gray divorces. 
  • Web traffic on dating sites from those who are 55 and older has grown by 39% since 2008. 

Contact a Spokane Divorce Lawyer

If you are considering getting a divorce, speak to a skilled Spokane divorce attorney who understands the unique concerns of separating from a spouse later in life. We offer free consultations; call (509) 327-0777 or contact us online

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