What Is a Gray Divorce?

Written by Samirah Hooks

A senior women looking sad with a senior man with his back to her

The majority of divorces in the U.S. are from people under 50. However, divorce rates have continued to increase rapidly amongst the older population. According to the Pew Research Center, divorce rates among individuals aged 50 and older have doubled since the 1990s. Even more surprising, divorce rates among seniors 65 and older have tripled. As an older divorcee, there are more factors to consider during the divorce process, which can make the process more strenuous and emotionally taxing. Those going through a gray divorce should be prepared to discuss and consider the implications compared to a standard divorce.

Different Types of Divorce What Can Be Used Against Me in Divorce

What is Gray Divorce?

The term gray divorce refers to a divorce where both parties are over 50 years of age. Outside of that factor, divorce operates similarly to the average divorce.

Why Do People Divorce Late in Life?

Choosing to divorce in your 50s or beyond could stem from different causes or reasons. The more common reasons driving older divorces are relationship dissatisfaction and stressed finances. Some couples may be unhappy and choose to stay together until their children are adults and leave home.

Other causes of gray divorce may include:

  • Retirement
  • Being married more than once
  • Drastic lifestyle changes
  • Increased incompatibility

Gray Divorce Issues and Considerations


When you are married for a long time, one or both spouses may be entitled to significant employer-sponsored retirement benefits. Some spouses don’t anticipate that the other spouse may be entitled to a portion of their employer-sponsored retirement benefits, even when the other spouse has a retirement benefit. If the benefits are disproportionate, a court may make provisions to equalize the discrepancy. Also, if there isn’t enough money to support two separate households, retirement may have to be delayed.

Estate Planning

When a couple divorces late in life, they need to revisit estate planning. Estate planning can be a complex process. If the parties are divorced, they no longer have the same goals and influence on disbursing assets at death. This can be especially difficult if the couple has been married for a long time and accumulated many assets together. Regarding Wills and Powers of Attorney, it is also essential to consider that there may be a need to have new designations for estate executors and listed beneficiaries.


If one or both spouses are retired, they may need to consider new options for steady income, including Social Security benefits and savings. If a spouse was the primary breadwinner, they might need to provide alimony or spousal support to their ex-spouse.

Social Security

Sometimes, an ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security benefits from their spouse, which can depend on how long the couple was married, the age of each spouse, and other factors. Ex-spouses entitled to Social Security are generally also entitled to Medicare coverage.

Health Insurance Coverage

Health insurance can be a primary concern during a gray divorce. If one of the spouses is entitled to health insurance coverage from their former spouse, they may need to consider other options if their partner chooses to end the policy. This may include purchasing a health insurance plan from the private market or obtaining coverage through a former employer using COBRA.

Potential Need for Long-Term Care

Spouses count on each other for health support as they age. Without this support, long-term care services may be needed. Long-term care insurance can help cover the costs of a nursing home or assisted living facility.

Alternatives to Gray Divorce

Although divorce may be the best option for some couples, there are other ways to resolve conflict and end a marriage. Divorcing spouses may opt for a separate maintenance decree in Georgia [a legal separation of sorts] to avoid losing key benefits. This may be the best option for couples reliant on one another for financial support.

Get Expert Support from the Gray Divorce Lawyers at Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor

If you are an older couple considering gray divorce, mediation, or legal separation, contact the experienced Georgia divorce attorneys at Stearns. We understand the challenges associated with getting a divorce when older and are ready to assist regardless of your decision. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and get the representation you deserve.