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Survival Strategies for Gray Divorce

The divorce rate continues to rise among couples over the age of 50, and while the reasons for so called, “gray divorce” vary, the effects can be devastating.

If you’re facing a gray divorce, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself both emotionally and financially.

Later in life, divorce can be especially complicated. With long-term marriages, there’s often more to consider than just dividing up property.

There may be retirement accounts, investments and retirement benefits like pensions to consider. And if you have adult children, they may be caught in the middle of the divorce as well.

This article will discuss some of the unique challenges of gray divorce and offer strategies for getting through it.

What is Gray Divorce?

Gray divorce, also known as silver splitter divorce, refers to couples over the age of 50 who get divorced. This term was coined due to the stereotype that this age group has gray or “silver” hair.

What is the Gray Divorce Revolution?

The gray divorce revolution is the increase in the number of divorces among people over the age of 50. The revolution started in the early 1990s as the overall divorce rates started to climb for this age group.

In fact, the divorce rate for this age group has doubled since the 1990s to one in four people getting divorced in 2015. It’s now the fastest-growing type of divorce.

If you’re considering getting divorced later in life, it’s important to understand the unique challenges by contacting divorce attorneys.

What are the Effects of Gray Divorce?

Gray divorce can significantly impact the couple getting divorced, as well as their children.

Some examples are as follows:

Financial difficulties

For many couples, gray divorce can lead to financial difficulties.

A divorce settlement may require one spouse to give up their retirement savings or the family home. This can leave both spouses struggling financially.

In addition, divorce can also lead to a decrease in income. One spouse may have to get a job after being a stay-at-home parent for many years. Or, one spouse may have to depend on family members if Social Security benefits aren’t enough to support them.

Even if you used a good Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA) to help distribute your marital estates, assets, liabilities and spousal support, the decrease in your overall household income can still be a shock.

It’s important to be prepared for the financial changes that come with divorce even while being in your prime earning years. Not to mention, children may also have to deal with the financial changes that come with their parents’ divorce.

Emotional difficulties

Divorce proceedings also can cause emotional distress.

Many couples who divorce later in life have been together for many years. This means they have built up a lot of shared history and memories.

When these couples divorce, it can be emotionally devastating. They may grieve the loss of their marriage and feel like they have failed in some way.

And let’s not forget their children’s feelings. If their parents have been together for many years, they may struggle to understand why they are getting divorced. This can lead to confusion, anger and sadness. 

Decisions involving money can also be emotionally difficult if one feels like they are not getting their fair share.

It’s important to understand the emotional effects of gray divorce and seek counseling if necessary.

What Causes Gray Divorce?

There are a number of reasons why couples over the age of 50 may choose to get divorced. Some common causes include:

Growing apart

People in long-term marriages often find that they’ve simply grown apart over the years. With children out of the house and careers coming to an end causing them to consider different directions, it’s not unusual for couples to find that they have little in common.

This can lead to feelings of loneliness and resentment, which ultimately can  lead to divorce.


While infidelity is often cited as a major reason for divorce among younger couples, it’s also a common cause of gray divorce.

With more time on their hands and fewer responsibilities, people in long-term marriages may be tempted to cheat. When this occurs, it can lead to feelings of betrayal and resentment, which can destroy a marriage.

Financial management

Money problems are often cited as a reason for divorce, regardless of age. But they can be especially difficult to deal with later in life.

For couples in a long-term marriage, one may have been a stay-at-home spouse or may not have been the primary breadwinner. This can cause financial difficulties when the couple tries to live on one income.

Child support is another common issue for couples over the age of 50. If one spouse pays support for children from a previous marriage, this can put a strain on the couple’s finances.

Financial management is another issue for couples as they approach retirement.

One spouse may feel the other is overspending or putting a burden on their future retirement.

Retirement planning is a significant source of conflict for couples over the age of 50. One spouse may want to retire early while the other wants to keep working. This can lead to disagreements about how to spend their time and money.

The stress of not having financial security can be a huge strain on a marriage and can eventually lead to divorce.

We’ll discuss some options you can take to help with your financial situation after you retire.


For many couples, retirement is a time to enjoy their golden years together. But for others, it can be a source of tension.

If one spouse wants to retire but the other doesn’t, it can cause conflict. Or, if one spouse wants to travel and the other doesn’t, it can also lead to resentment.

The different goals and desires that couples have for retirement can sometimes be a source of conflict that leads to divorce.

Empty nest syndrome

When couples have children, their lives revolve around them. But when the children leave home, it can be a shock to the system.

This is especially true for stay-at-home parents who have been out of the workforce for many years. When the children leave home, they may feel lost and struggle to find purpose in their lives.

They truly realize that they are unhappily married when the kids are no longer around to distract them.

Mental health issues

Mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, are often cited as reasons for gray divorce.

These issues can put a strain on a marriage and make it difficult to communicate and connect with your spouse. If left untreated, mental health issues can lead to divorce.

As health deteriorates it’s important to have a plan for long term care nearing or in retirement. You can learn more about your options in our post titled, “Strategies for Funding Your Long-Term Care.

It’s socially acceptable

The gray divorce rate has been on the rise for many years, and it’s now more socially acceptable than ever before.

This is especially true for women who are no longer financially dependent on their husbands.

In the past, divorce was seen as a failure. But now, it’s more socially acceptable to end a marriage that isn’t working. This is especially true for couples over the age of 50.

Couples in a long-term marriage may also be more likely to divorce because they’ve seen friends and family members go through it. They know that it’s possible to survive a divorce and move on with their lives.

Longer life expectancy rates

The lifespan of Baby Boomers today is much longer. And, with the advances in medical science, people are living healthier lives and are able to remain active well into their golden years.

In turn, marriage duration has dramatically increased. At the same time, couples who divorce later in life have many more years ahead of them. They may feel like they’re too young to be married to someone they’re not compatible with.

So, they may decide to end their marriage and start fresh.

Preparing for Gray Divorces

As we discussed, grey divorce is on the rise. And, if you’re over the age of 50, there’s a good chance that you may find yourself divorced later in life.

If you’re facing the prospect of a gray divorce, there are some things you can do to prepare for it.

Become or remain financially independent

If you’re financially dependent on your spouse, a gray divorce can be especially difficult. You may have to return to the workforce or drastically reduce your lifestyle.

So, it’s important to become or remain financially independent. This way, you’ll be able to support yourself if you do find yourself divorced later in life.

You can become or remain financially independent with the following options:

Save money

Make sure you have an emergency fund that will cover your expenses for at least six months. This way, you’ll have a cushion if you do find yourself unemployed.

Stay employed

Keep your career until you can get your life back in order if you are retirement age.

After your marital assets have been divided, there will be some adjustments and at least knowing you still have an income will help.

Use a Reverse Mortgage

A reverse mortgage is an excellent way for a divorcing couple to amicably split while making sure each other financial needs and lifestyle remain intact.

1. Reverse Mortgage for Purchase

A HECM for Purchase (aka reverse mortgage) allows qualified buyers to purchase their next primary residence with a one-time down payment of roughly 50 percent. 

The down payment can come from proceeds of a previous home or from other savings or assets. 

Once the purchase is complete, payments may be made on the home or payback may be deferred until the last remaining borrower permanently leaves the home.

There is no mandatory mortgage payment making this option a great way to preserve cash flow later in life and move into a home to accommodate long-term needs.

2. Dividing Home Equity While One Spouse Remains in The Marital Home

If one spouse wishes to keep the home, there are several advantages to accessing equity.

For starters, using home equity is tax free. 

You won’t have to tap into other retirement accounts, thereby preserving your assets, maximizing future growth and allowing for a more comfortable retirement.

There is no cash flow burden of a monthly mortgage for the spouse who remains in the home.

 3. Replacing a Traditional Mortgage for the Remaining Spouse

If the remaining spouse suddenly has difficulty adjusting to living on a single income, replacing that traditional mortgage loan with a reverse mortgage could be the solution.

Overall, reverse mortgages can help both parties move forward with their divorce fairly, with neither spouse left holding the short end of the stick.

If you, a loved one, or your client is going through a divorce and feel a reverse mortgage may help, Get your no-cost consultation. Click here

Get emotional support

Gray divorces can take their toll and having a support group is important. Consider talking to a therapist that specializes in divorce or joining a divorce support group.

You can also lean on your family and friends for support. Let them know what you’re going through and how they can help you.

Plan for the future

A gray divorce can upend your plans for retirement. So, do what you can to stay physically and psychologically active.

You should also try to maintain a positive outlook. Research shows that people who are optimists live longer and are healthier than those who aren’t.

Find happiness outside of your past routine while married. Or maybe you’ve been putting your own happiness on the back burner for too long.

Whatever the reason, now is the time to focus on your own happiness. Do what makes you happy and don’t worry about what other people think.

Stay single or date

This is a personal decision. Some people want to stay single and focus on themselves and their own happiness. Others want to date and find someone new to share their life with.

Do what feels right for you. There’s no right or wrong answer.

What’s important is that you’re honest with yourself about what you want and need.

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