Issues for Couples Facing a Gray Divorce

Concept of a gray divorce between a couple over 50. They are standing back to back, with their arms folded in a defensive posture.

As a large part of the U.S. population gets older, the divorce rate among people over the age of 50 — also known as “gray divorce” — is becoming increasingly common. People who seek a divorce later in life are likely to encounter different challenges than younger couples. Older people, for example, are either closer to retirement age or already retired. A mistake in a gray divorce can be very costly, so the help of an experienced divorce lawyer who understands Connecticut family law is essential. The following offers an overview of gray divorce and the challenges it may present.

What Is Gray Divorce?

“Gray divorce” has no specific legal meaning under Connecticut law. It refers to divorces among people who are at least 50 years old. The term reportedly originated in a study published by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) in 2004, which found a sharp rise in the divorce rate among people in that age group.

Other research has supported the AARP’s findings. A study published in The Journals of Gerontology in 2012, for example, found that the divorce rate among people 50 and up doubled between 1990 and 2010. The authors called it the “gray divorce revolution” and predicted that the number would increase by another third by 2030.

Why Has Gray Divorce Become So Common?

Experts have offered many possible explanations for why gray divorces are on the rise.

Greater Life Expectancy

Average life expectancy in the U.S. has been increasing for many years. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that life expectancy increased by nearly a decade between 1960 and 2015, from 69.7 years to 79.4 years. They estimate that this increase will continue, reaching 85 years or longer by 2060.

Gray divorce may be increasing simply because people are living longer. If someone is unhappy in their marriage, they have more time to start a new life than earlier generations. A 50-year-old could spend another 29.4 years in an unsatisfying, difficult, or abusive marriage, or they could get a divorce and resume their search for happiness.

Cultural Shifts

The cultural perception of divorce has changed over the past few decades. Divorce no longer carries the same stigma that it once did, especially for women. This shift has made it easier for people who should not be married anymore to seek divorce.

What Issues Can Gray Divorce Present?

Gray divorce often presents different issues than divorce cases involving younger people. Older couples are less likely to have children still at home. If a couple has had children, they are more likely to be grown. Child support and child custody are therefore not likely to be issues in the divorce case. One of the biggest challenges couples often face during a gray divorce is the diminishment of their retirement and social security benefits. Other issues, such as property division, can be much more complicated in gray divorces.


Divorce later in life can have a serious impact on retirement plans. A couple may have planned to retire at a particular point in time. Divorce may force them to delay that date. The divorce will require them to divide their property, including retirement plans, savings and investment accounts, and other assets that they might have been planning on using for retirement.

Property Division

Several features of gray divorce can affect property division. Connecticut law allows a court to award property to either spouse in a divorce proceeding. Factors that the court should consider when deciding how to divide the spouses’ property include the length of the marriage and each spouse’s age and health.

Many gray divorces occur after decades of marriage. Spouses can accumulate a substantial amount of property during that time. Their assets may also be more complex than younger couples’ assets. The property may include real estate, vehicles, investment accounts, and retirement plans or pensions. Dividing these assets in a divorce can be very complicated.

Retirement plans, pensions, and other benefits can present a particularly difficult situation in gray divorce cases. A spouse may be entitled to a portion of the other spouse’s benefits. The amount may be based on the factors like:

  • The length of the marriage;
  • The income disparity between the spouses; and
  • Each spouse’s contributions, both monetary and non-monetary, to the marriage and their assets.

Non-monetary contributions to the marriage might include not working outside of the home in order to care for the children and manage the household.


Connecticut law allows a court to award alimony to a spouse in order to make sure the divorce does not completely cut them off from any source of support. Courts may consider factors similar to those considered when deciding on the terms of the property division, including each spouse’s earning capacity and whether they worked during the marriage or not.

If both spouses have or had jobs and will be able to support themselves after the divorce, alimony might not be necessary. At the end of a lengthy marriage in which one spouse was the breadwinner, however, an award of alimony is likely to happen.

Impact on Adult Children

Even if a couple’s children are adults with their own homes and families, the divorce could have a significant impact on them. The children may have a different set of concerns when their parents get divorced later in life. A young child might worry about having to switch schools, while an adult child worries about how their parents will take care of themselves without each other. Those concerns can cause the same kinds of emotions — distress, fear, anger, sadness, etc. — at any age. In the midst of a gray divorce, this could go overlooked. Parents going through a gray divorce should be sure to talk to their kids about it as much as necessary.

Schedule a Consultation with a Skilled Divorce Attorney Today!

If you are over the age of 50 and wish to get divorced, reach out to divorce attorney Edward Jurkiewicz. Edward understands the unique challenges that couples over 50 years old face when they divorce. He will work with you, provide legal support, and advocate for your best outcome.

The divorce attorneys at Lawrence & Jurkiewicz represent people in Hartford and Litchfield County who need help with divorce and related family law issues. Please contact us today online or at (860) 926-1697 to schedule a confidential consultation to see how we can help you.

Categories: Divorce