In recent years, researchers, lawyers and others have noted that the age of the average person going through a divorce has become older, driven by a high number of people over 50 who are choosing to end their marriages. In some cases, these are people who have been divorced before. In many, these are people who are ending marriages after many years.
One researcher found that 36% of people going through a divorce today are older than 50. The 2020 U.S. Census Bureau found that almost 35% of the people who had divorced in previous 12-month period were 55 or older.
There are lots of theories as to why this phenomenon is happening, but no one knows for sure. Every divorce is unique to the people who experience it, and people shouldn’t have to feel trapped in a bad marriage just because they have passed a certain age.
That said, there are some special considerations for people who are going through divorce later in life. The financial implications of gray divorce are especially difficult. Because the people going through gray divorce are closer to retirement, if not already retired, they have less time than younger people to earn enough money to live comfortably in their later years.
This problem is particularly bad for women. Researchers say that after divorce, the standard of living for older women drops by an average of 45%. For men, the average drop is only 21%. As many as 27% of women who go through a gray divorce end up living below the federal poverty line, compared to 12% of men.
Again, there are many theories as to why these discrepancies exist, but the facts in each case are unique. What is clear is that people going through a gray divorce should be very careful to make sure they will get out of the marriage with the resources they need to sustain them in the years ahead. Compared to trial and traditional litigation, mediation and related techniques can keep their divorce-related costs down and give them more control over their outcomes.