Grey Divorce

What is "Gray Divorce" in North Carolina?

Gray divorce commonly happens when older couples, those over 50, who have been married for a long time, get divorced. Gray divorcees are often colloquially called silver or diamond splitters. While the overall divorce rate has declined over the last 20 years, the divorce rate for people over the age of 50 has increased.

Typically, the term gray divorce refers to spouses who divorce after being married for 40 years or more. There is an assumption that those divorcing after being married for that long are starting to get gray hair, which is how the term "gray divorce" developed. If you are considering getting a gray divorce in North Carolina, Arnold & Smith, PLLC can help. Contact us to schedule your initial consultation today.

Gray Divorce, or Older Divorce Statistics

Over the past 20 years, the divorce rate for those over the age of 50 has doubled. In fact, one out of every four people who divorced in 2009 was age 50 or older according to an academic paper written by two Bowling Green State University sociologists. The paper goes on to report that divorce of those age 65 and over has more than doubled since 1990. More than 55 percent of gray divorces involve couples who have been married for over 20 years.

Common Reasons for Gray Divorce in North Carolina

Why have divorces involving older Americans doubled in the last 20 years? There are many reasons why couples who have been together long-term choose to divorce later in life. One of the most common reasons is that the couple has simply grown apart. In gray divorce in North Carolina, there is often no "breaking point" moment in which both spouses decide to divorce. Instead, the drifting apart happens naturally over a long period of time.

Sometimes, after the last of the couple’s adult children goes off to college, the couple will suffer from "empty nest syndrome." After 20 or more years of focusing on parenting, the couple finds that they have drifted apart. When parenting is no longer the focus, the couple realizes that they have become different people after their children are gone.

Age and Retirement are Common Causes for Gray Divorce

Aging is incredibly difficult. Chronic health conditions increase with age and can take over a large portion of a person’s time and energy. Additionally, as we age it can be more difficult to be active, especially with health problems, eyesight issues, and back problems. When people feel the impact of aging, they may become more depressed and anxious. It can be difficult for a spouse to stay married to someone who has been seriously negatively impacted by aging.

Retirement is another common cause of gray divorce. When a married couple is focusing on raising their children and their career, they have an overarching sense of purpose and a unifying goal. Sometimes, couples in the middle of life are so focused on their careers and children that they do not have time to realize that they have grown apart from their spouse. Additionally, when a couple enters retirement, they may not have the same amount of income coming in that they are used to receiving. The tighter budget can put pressure on the couple and spur disagreements over finances.

Longer Life Expectancies Contribute to Gray Divorces

People are living longer than they ever have and this change has affected the gray divorce rate. According to the Social Security Administration, people are living longer than ever:

  • A man who reaches the age of 65 usually lives, on average, to 84.3
  • A woman who reaches the age of 65 usually lives until age 86.6
  • One out of every four people who are 65 will live to be older than 90
  • One out of every 10 people will live over the age of 95

Married older couples who are considering divorce may live between 30 and 50 years longer. Sometimes one or both spouses wonders how they can survive multiple decades in what they consider to be an unhappy marriage. As people live longer, many want to experience the rest of their lives free from their marriage. They may want to live their twilight years in a different way than their spouse wants to live.

For example, one spouse may want to spend their last decades in an active lifestyle while traveling and going on adventures. The other spouse may want to stay close to home and enjoy gardening, puzzles, and community-based activities. These differences can lead couples to seek divorce.

Contact a Divorce Lawyer Today

No matter how old you are or how long you have been married, divorce is rarely easy. Contact an experienced North Carolina divorce lawyer today to help guide you through the process.