Grey Divorce is on the Rise

grey divorce
grey divorce

Recent statistics reveal a dramatic increase in the “gray divorce” rate among couples who have been in long-term marriages of 20, 30 years, or more. High-profile examples include Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as Tipper and Al Gore. This has led many to question why these couples, after decades of marriage, are unable to fulfill the vow “till death do us part.”

Examining the evolution of marriage motivations over the past 50 years and the growing social acceptance of divorce provides some insight. The expectations and desires of both men and women have shifted. In previous generations, men sought authority, while women desired a partner who could provide for them. As more women gain financial independence, the need for a provider has lessened. Instead, both men and women now seek a best friend and equal partnership in a relationship.

In a Canada AM interview about “grey divorce,” Deborah shed light on the reasons behind this demographic trend:

What triggers a “grey divorce”?

Women initiate divorces at a higher rate than men. When women decide to leave, their husbands are often taken by surprise. Research indicates that women are more likely to leave for their own mental health, while men are more likely to leave for another person. With longer life expectancy and better health, we are leading longer, healthier, and more active lives. When adult children leave the nest, leading to “empty nest syndrome,” many middle-aged and older adults look at their spouse and think, “I don’t want to spend the next 20 or 30 years or more with you.” Why?

Infidelity, emotional abuse, or substance misuse are no longer tolerated. Many couples grow apart during the child-rearing years and realize they no longer have much in common once their children leave home. These couples often led separate lives during their marriage and are now seeking a partner rather than just a roommate. Emotional and intimate connections have been lacking. People have grown apart, and their values no longer align. Many individuals want to spend the rest of their lives with a best friend and companion who shares their interests and values, someone to grow old with and hold hands. If you feel that your marriage or relationship is deteriorating because you are no longer a priority, you’ve lost the loving sensation but still love your partner, and you’re not in love with them, marital counseling may help you get back on track.

You’re not alone if you believe that divorce is your only option. Many others have come to realize that a “good enough marriage” is no longer sufficient.

What happens if you get divorced in your fifties? In my role as a certified divorce financial analyst, I’ve noticed a recurring pattern. Many of my older female clients express fear about becoming financially insecure. Is this a realistic fear? For most, it’s irrational thinking, but for a few, it can be a slim reality that can be avoided with proper planning and awareness.

How common is “grey divorce”?

Recent statistics show a significant rise in the divorce rate among couples who have been married for 20 years or more and are generally 50 years or older. People are wondering why these couples couldn’t make their marriages last “until death do us part” if they were able to make them work for 20 years or longer. The truth is that no matter how old or how long you’ve been married, divorce can happen to anyone.

What’s remarkable, though, is that these older couples, often referred to as “grey divorcees,” are approaching their twilight years as empty nesters, just as retirement approaches. While their lives may not be winding down now that their children are out of the house and no longer a financial burden, their finances may be affected. The retirement plans they dreamed of and planned for may no longer be realistic when assets are split down the middle. This often necessitates adjustments to retirement plans.

Sue Van Der Hout, a Director at One Vision Consulting who also teaches Family Enterprise at Seymour Schulich School of Business, and I discussed the retirement conundrum and the challenges many women face. Ms. Van Der Hout delivered a reality check, which, while harsh for some, provides food for thought as you prepare to retire. You need to ask yourself, “What does this mean for my future ambitions and dreams that I want to enjoy in my later life? Will this impact the way I intended to retire?”

At the end of the day, you have options. While choosing between different priorities may not be enjoyable, it is an inevitable question. For example, if you feel comfortable in your retirement situation, spending $1,500 may not cause anxiety. However, if that amount represents your annual vacation, your daughter’s wedding gown, or your contribution to your Registered Retirement Savings Plan, many women end up in debt and have to climb out while also saving for their retirement.

Van Der Hout advocates being pragmatic and “dealing with the financial disaster before moving on.” What does it mean for your future decision-making if you have a wealth gap in terms of your ability to retire?

What is the divorce rate for couples over 50?

Even if we are healthy and robust at 50 or 60 years old, the word “retirement” can make us feel old, yet it is an inevitable phase of life regardless of how we feel. The uncertainty lies in how retirement will unfold. That’s why Van Der Hout advises people to plan because “what do you do if you have limited resources, and your resources are strained to the maximum and can’t tolerate another catastrophe – a leaking roof, a root canal, or an uninsured physical injury?” She believes that planning is the key to a successful retirement.

Here are the key financial questions you should ask yourself – or a professional – to ensure a secure retirement:

Create a financial balance sheet for yourself. What are you really living for right now? What do you require to survive? Evaluate your financial situation. What is the current and future state of all your resources? Is there an income gap preventing you from achieving your goals, and if so, what will you do to close it? Consider your lifestyle. What would your financial situation be if you continue to live your current lifestyle? How would your life change after retirement? Differentiate between your wants and needs. What can you do to better understand your finances in the future, and will your decisions help or hinder your retirement plans? Create a retirement strategy. Make a list of goals for yourself, possibly with the help of professionals, colleagues, or friends knowledgeable in the field. How is retirement calculated in a divorce?

Create a retirement strategy. Utilize your financial and human resources to determine which assets will provide you with the best returns.

What city will you call home? To answer that question fully, you must first assess your needs and capabilities. For instance, if you’re downsizing from a three-bedroom home to a studio apartment, consider where you’d like to live and how it would impact your career options, among other factors.

Finances are often cited as a factor in the breakdown of marriages, yet significant financial discussions were never fully explored, perhaps even avoided. However, if the only bags you want to carry are Coach, Mark Jacobs, Prada, or 9 West, it’s time to start talking about financial retirement with your support team now. The twilight you’re experiencing isn’t just retiring in later years but also a lovely evening sunset.

How do you survive a “grey divorce”?

Divorce is becoming more common among the current generation of empty-nesters. Additionally, the divorce rate among people aged 50 and older has increased in the last 20 years. It used to be that the likelihood of divorce decreased as people grew older, but that is no longer the case. Post-divorce retirement is a concern for the “grey divorce” group, as the aging population is living longer and healthier lives.

Many people wonder, “What do I need to consider?” We provide an answer to that question and other information:

Innovative ideas for a financially sound Ontario divorce settlement. Adapting to post-divorce lifestyle changes. Managing debt while receiving reduced medical or health benefits. Retirement plans for divorced couples. Is your house a liability or an asset? As you work through your finances to ensure a financially secure retirement, learn how to protect yourself and create a list of questions. Contact Ken S Maynard at Divorce the Smartway.

<h2>Final Thoughts</h2>
The “gray divorce” phenomenon has significantly increased, affecting long-lasting marriages of 20, 30 years, or more. This demographic trend, often involving baby boomers, has been influenced by longer life expectancy, better health, and changes in societal norms. The “empty nest syndrome” that occurs when grown children leave home can lead to a reevaluation of the marriage, and in many cases, one spouse or both may decide they no longer wish to remain married.
However, the decision to divorce later in life brings its unique challenges, especially regarding financial stability and retirement benefits. As a certified divorce financial analyst, I’ve seen the fear and stress that can accompany these decisions involving money. A divorce settlement can significantly impact retirement accounts, and careful planning and awareness are paramount.
The gray divorce revolution is about the dissolution of long-term marriages and pursuing individual happiness and fulfillment in the golden years. It’s about older adults, both men and women, seeking to live authentically and fully, even if that means making tough decisions like getting divorced.
It’s important to remember that support is available during these challenging times. Whether through a support group, family law professionals, or a certified divorce financial analyst, you don’t have to navigate the process alone. With the right guidance and resources, navigating a gray divorce and still looking forward to a secure and fulfilling future is possible.
In conclusion, while gray divorce presents challenges, it also opens opportunities for personal growth and new beginnings. It’s a chance to redefine your life, find happiness, and live on your terms. It’s about making the most of your longer life expectancy and ensuring that your prime earning years and retirement age are spent in a way that brings you joy and satisfaction.


The rising trend of “grey divorce” is reshaping the landscape of long-term relationships and retirement planning. The decision to divorce later in life is not an easy one, and it comes with unique financial and emotional challenges. However, it’s important to remember that you are not alone in this journey.

Whether you’re considering a divorce or already in the process, it’s crucial to seek professional advice. A lawyer can guide you through the legal aspects, while a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst can help you navigate the financial complexities and ensure your retirement plans remain secure.

Remember, this is not just about surviving a divorce; it’s about thriving in the next chapter of your life. It’s about finding your happiness and living authentically, even if that means making tough decisions.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, unsure, or just need someone to talk to, we’re here to help. We invite you to schedule a Get Acquainted Call with us. This is a safe space for you to share your concerns, ask questions, and explore your options. Let’s navigate this journey together, towards a brighter and more secure future.

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