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Why are so many older people filing for divorce?

If you have been married for 20 or 30 years or more, you’ve no doubt experienced relationship problems along the way. Most couples do. Through the years, you may have overlooked a lot, opting to stay because of your children or because you and your spouse own a business together, or simply because you have invested a lot of time and effort into your marriage and weren’t ready to give up on it yet.  

At some point, perhaps, after your kids grew up and went out on their own, you decided that you’d rather be on your own, as well, than stay in an unhappy marriage. If you’re now in your late 50s, 60s or 70s, you may be joining the ranks of a particular category of people — those who file for “gray divorce.” That’s not an actual legal term, however, but a colloquial phrase coined when divorce among older people more than doubled in the past 20 years.  

Most common reasons for gray divorce 

If one or more of the issues included in the following list are prevalent in your marriage, you have something in common with thousands of other people who have filed for a gray divorce:  

  • Your children all moved out, and you and your spouse discovered that you had drifted farther apart than you realized.  
  • You stayed home for years to raise your family and now feel like you’d like to be more independent and, perhaps, do some things you were not able to while you were taking care of young children.  
  • You caught your spouse cheating on you. 
  • You’ve been arguing about money for years and are tired of all the fighting. 
  • Attempts at counseling were unsuccessful. 
  • Your spouse has a substance addiction. 

These are common issues that often precede a gray divorce. If you’re considering filing a petition, it’s always best to make sure you understand state laws and know what to expect as the court processes your divorce.  

Gray divorce has implications that younger spouses might not encounter 

You may have executed an estate plan at some point during your marriage. If you listed your spouse as a beneficiary or designated him or her as your executor, you may wish to update your plan once you finalize your divorce. Additionally, you might have issues to resolve regarding retirement benefits, business assets, custody of pet issues and more.  

Try to be calm, take one step at a time and know where to seek support if legal complications arise.