Divorce rates among older couples are going up, and there’s little to suggest that we’ll be seeing a reduction in that trend. Gray divorces are divorces between couples over 50. A study by the Pew Research Center shows that the divorce rate among couples within these demographics has doubled since 1990.

The increasing divorce rate among older couples has been linked to several factors:

  • Couple going through gray divorce in need of mediation or arbitrationImproved life expectancy
  • Children leaving the home
  • Less stigmatization around divorce
  • Women are more financially-independent
  • Evolving goals and aspirations
  • Diminished intimacy
  • Decreased elderly disability rates

Divorce by itself is an emotion-laden process. Splitting up with a partner you’ve been with for a long time can be an even more painful process. Gray divorce can come with a lot of baggage not seen in divorces between couples who have not been together for so long. Successfully dealing with the gray issues is key to making the process as painless as possible.

Navigating the divorce process for most couples often comes down to two issues: money and the kids. For gray divorces, however, the couples may have to deal with other concerns.

Potential Gray Areas in Gray Divorces

Will Spousal Support Be Required?

In many gray divorces, partners might be approaching the end of their careers and may find the prospect of paying spousal support a reason for concern. Divorcing couples, especially the paying party, must be careful about handling issues relating to finance. The problems are not often straightforward, and you may need professional help to sort them out.

How to Handle the Family Home?

For couples who have been together for long, the family home is likely to hold precious sentiments and memories that may be painful to leave. However, a divorce can be a grueling, unforgiving process, and you may need to keep emotions aside. It’s not very wise to hold on to a potential financial burden. You will have to think through your situations before making a decision.

Market Value of Jointly Owned Assets

Determining the value of jointly owned assets is a crucial part of every divorce proceeding. Both parties may want to research the value of their assets independently. For complicated assets like business equity, both parties will want to use the services of the same professional for an unbiased appraisal.

The Children’s College Education             

If you haven’t set aside sufficient funds for your kid’s college education, you may want to address the issue in detail. Having kids still in school can have a significant impact on the divorce process. This detail is one that couples must sort out carefully.

Aged Parents

Longer life expectancy rates now mean that gray divorcees may also have living parents who may be physically or financially dependent on them. Gray divorce proceedings must factor in the welfare of aged parents, if any.

Provisions for Wills and Life Insurance

The issue of wills, life insurance, and the future beneficiaries must be ironed out, as a future relationship can alter the scope of a will or life insurance plan. If there is no documented will, chances are there was already an unwritten understanding of what would happen to the assets upon the death of a spouse.

Ideally, there should be a contractual agreement with specific details on the new direction of the will and the plans for potential future relationships.

What If a Spouse Is Dealing with a Health Condition?

Gray divorce can be emotionally stressful if one spouse is battling a health challenge. Feelings of anger, betrayal, and bitterness can complicate the divorce process. You will often require the services of an experienced professional to navigate a potentially tortuous divorce process.


Gray divorces are often complex issues that are best settled out of a courtroom. Mediation and arbitration provide less emotionally draining ways of splitting with a long-term spouse.

If you are involved in mediation or arbitration in the Seattle or Bellevue area, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny are here when you need us. For a private consultation with someone who cares, call us at (425) 460-0550, or fill out our online contact form.
Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington
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