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Understanding the Gray Divorce Phenomenon

Posted on in BGL Law
Understanding the Gray Divorce Phenomenon“Gray Divorce” is a common term used to describe when older couples divorce after long marriages. Couples fall into the demographic when they are older than 50 and have been married for more than 20 years. While overall U.S. divorce rates have declined over the past 20 years, gray divorce has doubled during that time. Because it is a more recent phenomenon, people may be less familiar with the causes of gray divorce and its unique challenges.

Reasons for Gray Divorce

Why has the rate of divorce for people older than 50 increased? You could argue that divorce has become more common, but that contradicts the overall decrease in the divorce rate. Societal changes have made it more likely that long-term couples will consider divorce:

  • Life expectancy is greater. When couples live longer, they have more time to consider whether they want to spend their retirement years together.
  • Because more women are having profitable careers, they also have greater financial resources in retirement. Previous generations of women were more dependent on their husbands' retirement pay and may have felt divorce would leave them vulnerable.
  • Women also have more power in their marriages. They no longer believe they must accept being subservient to their husbands. When couples spend more time together after retirement or their children moving out, the power imbalances in a marriage can be more evident.
  • Increased gray divorce may be the result of a previous generation getting older. Today's gray divorce couples are the same people who made up the previous generation of young couples that had a higher divorce rate.

Negotiating Gray Divorce

There are no “gray divorce” laws in Illinois, but divorce courts consider the duration of a marriage when dividing marital property and awarding spousal support. The length of a marriage determines how many years a spouse must pay maintenance. If a couple was married for more than 20 years, the duration of spousal support may be permanent or equal to the length of the marriage. The length of a marriage has a less-defined effect on the division of marital property. Illinois law merely states that it is one factor that courts consider. However, the division of property can be complex because older couples often have high-value assets, including:

  • Real property;
  • Retirement benefits;
  • Financial accounts;
  • Business interests; and
  • Various valuables.

Experienced Representation

During a gray divorce, the parties must account for decades of shared assets in order to determine the division of property. A McHenry County divorce attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC understands the complexities of divorce and how to reach a favorable outcome. Call 815-338-3838 to schedule a free consultation.



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