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Common causes of ‘gray divorce’

by | Apr 27, 2021 | Divorce

The differences between Millennials and Baby Boomers include diverging tastes in music, movies and food, as well as dissimilar perspectives on politics, work and family. One of the starkest parting of the ways between the generations is found in divorce.

According to the Pew Research Center, divorce is on the decline among Millennials, but so-called “gray divorce” has risen rapidly among Baby Boomers. In fact, the divorce rate for those who are age 50 and above has more than doubled since 1990.

The surge in gray divorce is due to a wide array of factors, including:

Declining divorce stigma

The women’s movement launched by Baby Boomers in the 1960s reshaped gender roles. As a result, women today are more empowered and educated – a side effect of which is the dramatically reduced divorce stigma. It’s now easier for women to initiate divorce and to walk away from a marriage without being subjected to societal frowning.

Longer lives

Because life expectancy is higher than ever, Baby Boomers are more inclined to believe they still have time to learn what makes them happy – and still have time to recover financially from a divorce. That hopefulness about what can be accomplished in their remaining years is coupled with greater access to quality health care and a shift toward healthier lifestyles that incorporate better diets and regular exercise.


In many marriages, married parents keep their families intact for the sake of their kids. The result is that dissatisfied couples stay together and postpone divorce until their children are grown. When their kids leave for college or careers, the focused attention that those couples had on the raising of their children dissipates, giving the spouses time to evaluate their marriage, each other and what the future offers.

Those self-examinations by gray-haired empty nesters will sometimes lead to a desire for fundamental changes that begin with a divorce.

Financial matters

Disagreements over how money is spent, saved and earned are often the triggering point in divorces, including among those who are 50 and older. Despite the shifts in gender roles mentioned earlier, research shows that marriages are likelier to remain intact when the husband’s earnings increase and more likely to end in divorce when the wife’s earnings increase.

Data continues to show that women earn less than men in comparable jobs, which translates into smaller savings, less lucrative retirement plans and fewer earning opportunities to rebound financially following a divorce – all of which can be factored into considerations of property division and spousal support (alimony).

Other familiar reasons

Other common causes of gray divorce include infidelity, sexual incompatibility, addictions (alcohol, drugs, gambling) and a reason cited by many couples: they simply grew apart.

Divorce can be emotionally draining, especially after a long marriage. Having friends, family members, a support group and a skilled Northern Virginia family law attorney can help you through the process so that you can start a new life.