The Rise of the Grey Divorce

What is a grey divorce?

The term ‘grey divorce’ was coined 20 years ago in recognition of a trend in older married couples.

While the overall divorce rate fell at the beginning of the millennium, there was a spike in separations in the Baby Boomers and Gen-X demographics. This has become known as grey divorce or silver separation, named for the hair colour of older people.

What is causing this trend?

Astonishingly, the divorce rate in UK over 60s doubled from 1993 to 2019, an increase that was echoed in the US as well. There are several factors thought to be causing this trend:

1. Cultural changes

Cultural changes occur naturally over time. While previous generations may have disapproved of the termination of a marriage, divorce is more widely accepted in our present-day society.

2. Financial freedom

The last few decades have seen an explosion in job opportunities for women, although the UK gender pay gap still exists. This means that women are less reliant on their partner for money.

3. Longer life

Now that we have a longer life expectancy thanks to improved healthcare, people are less willing to tolerate an unfulfilling union into old age.

4. Empty nest syndrome

Empty nest syndrome is a common reason for divorce in older couples. Without children to co-parent, some couples discover a lack of shared interests or even opposing values that make married life too challenging.

Divorcing in later life

Separating from a partner is painful and stressful at any age, married or not. However, divorcing in later life comes with the complication of financial entanglement. This might include shared assets such as joint property ownership, as well as significant savings in the form of investments and pensions.

A family solicitor is a wise investment to ensure that the division of finances is fair, in terms of your expectations and in the eyes of the law. It will also be beneficial should any unexpected debts or other financial liabilities arise, as both halves of the couple are responsible for their settlement.

Aside from the finances, divorcing in later life often includes the consideration of child custody. Hiring a lawyer is again advisable in this situation as court proceedings may be necessary if you and your partner cannot agree on the legal guardianship of your children.

Joint custody is the typical arrangement for divorced parents in the UK as it allows for flexible co-parenting. However, there is also the option of full custody which can be granted if the court deems on parent to be unfit to raise a child. Within each type of custody, there are further sub-categories to help couples find the right resolution for their unique family dynamic.


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