More older couples today are getting divorced than in years past. This phenomenon is known as gray divorce.

Many marriages end in divorce. There is a growing trend, however, for divorce among older couples in Illinois and elsewhere. Couples in decades past had a tendency to stay married, even if they were miserable. Numerous factors today are making divorce a better option for those who are divorcing later in life.

According to National Public Radio, people over age 50 today are getting divorced at twice the rate as those the same age did 20 years ago. Today, about one in four couples over 50 end their marriages, as compared to one out of every 10 in 1990. When senior citizens split up, it is commonly known as “gray divorce.” Older Americans face many unique challenges in a divorce that younger couples may not.


Those who were only married a few years may not have yet accrued the type of assets that may present particular difficulties in a divorce dispute, points out the Washington Times. On the other hand, couples married for decades or who married later in life often have significant marital property to divide. This may include:

  • Funds from pensions and retirement accounts
  • Assets from a company jointly shared or managed by the couple
  • Extra vehicles, including those used for pleasure, such as boats and ATVs
  • Real estate, rental properties or vacation homes

These challenges may be further complicated in a gray divorce if one spouse did not work outside the home during the marriage. It may be difficult to update one’s job skills and find employment at a later age. Senior citizens may also have to deal with medical problems that make it hard to get by on one’s own.


A divorce later in life may also be an emotional a shock for those who have been married for some time. Newly-single senior citizens should be aware of the signs of depression in the months following the end of the marriage. They may not have to deal with other common divorce issues such as child custody, but adult children may be greatly upset by the news of their parents’ divorce. Family issues among adult children and siblings may further complicate a gray divorce, especially if a disabled parent needs help that was formerly provided by the spouse.

Despite these challenges, it can be rewarding and freeing to end a marriage at a later age. After raising children, couples may discover they have grown apart and that efforts to revive the relationship fail. With more women being financially independent than in years past, it is much more feasible to escape an unhappy marriage. There are also resources that focus on helping senior citizens find employment or educational opportunities.

Older couples who have significant assets or other complex divorce issues may not find it in their best interests to attempt a divorce on their own. An experienced family law attorney in Illinois may be best suited to help clients reach agreeable resolutions in a gray divorce.