Gray Divorce and Your Adult Children

The phenomenon of gray divorce, which refers to couples over 50 getting divorced, has gained attention in recent years. According to a study published in the Journals of Gerontology, 36% of those who are getting divorced are 50 years old or older. While issues like child custody and support might not be a factor, these divorces can still affect the adult children of the couple.

What Is a Gray Divorce?

Gray divorce challenges the traditional notion of marriage as a lifelong commitment. The growing trend of divorces of older couples, those aged 50 and above who have been in long-term marriages, is a clear indication of the changing dynamics in modern relationships.

Contrary to the general decline in divorce rates, gray divorces have risen over the past decade. In turn, that means more and more people are seeking to end their marriages later in life.

Older couples are no longer expected to stick together. For that reason, it is necessary to understand the unique challenges and implications of gray divorce, especially concerning adult children. With a proactive approach, family members can take on this issue confidently and clearly.

Reasons for a Gray Divorce

Several factors can shape a gray divorce and have different implications for adult children. Here are the primary causes of a gray divorce:

Empty Nest Syndrome

One of the most common factors contributing to gray divorce is the “empty nest syndrome.” Often, parents feel lonely when their children leave home. This can expose underlying marital issues previously masked by the distractions of child-rearing.

Financial Changes

Whether due to retirement, the loss of income, or unexpected expenses, these changes can strain a marriage. Disagreements over financial management or incompatible financial goals can lead to marital discord.

Adjusting to Retirement

As couples reach retirement age, their relationship dynamics often transform. After decades of working and raising a family, the sudden influx of free time can stress marriages. Couples may grapple with their newfound identities and how to spend their time.

Personal Growth

Over the years, individuals naturally evolve, and their priorities may shift. This personal growth can lead to couples growing apart and experiencing irreconcilable differences, resulting in a divorce. Pursuing self-fulfillment and happiness may override the desire to maintain the marriage.

Increased Lifespan

Advances in health care have led to longer and healthier lives. With increased longevity, older adults may feel less inclined to stay in an unhappy marriage, contributing to the rise in gray divorce. The prospect of many years of life can motivate the pursuit of personal happiness and satisfaction, even if that means ending a marriage.

Societal Acceptance

Societal attitudes toward divorce have significantly evolved. What was once stigmatized is now widely accepted, making it a more feasible option for dissatisfied older couples. Now, many of them feel less pressured to remain in unfulfilling marriages for the sake of societal norms.

Concerns for a Gray Divorce

Gray divorce brings unique considerations, especially for couples who have accumulated more assets and are closer to or in retirement. These considerations may indirectly impact their adult children, and understanding these challenges is essential for all parties involved:

Retirement Plans

The division of retirement savings is another aspect of gray divorce. After years of shared investment, decisions about splitting these funds can impact each spouse’s financial stability following the divorce. Professional guidance is often required to ensure a fair distribution and protect future financial security.

Social Security Benefits

Depending on certain conditions, divorced spouses may be entitled to Social Security benefits based on their ex-spouse’s record. Understanding these stipulations is important for securing financial stability in later life.


Alimony can be a difficult issue in a gray divorce, especially if one or both spouses are no longer working. There may be a few considerations regarding spousal, which affect the financial well-being of each party after the divorce.

Division of Assets

Over the years of marriage, couples usually accumulate substantial assets, including homes, vehicles, investments, and family businesses. Sometimes, the couples may be members of an LLC. With the divorce, the spouses need to decide whether to operate the business together, sell to another party, or buy out the other individual. The division of property requires careful evaluation and negotiation. Otherwise, it could lead to a heavy financial impact on both spouses. Achieving a fair distribution can be complex, requiring the assistance of a New Jersey divorce lawyer.

Health Care Costs

As couples age, health care becomes a major concern. A divorce can impact the ability to afford medical expenses, especially if one spouse relies on the other’s health care plan. Navigating health care costs can be a challenge requiring thoughtful planning.

Estate Planning

Wills, trusts, and beneficiary designations often involve the spouse and may need to be revised in the event of a divorce. An experienced attorney can help navigate these changes to ensure that estate planning goals are met, protecting the legacy and financial future of loved ones.

Family Relationships

While older couples often do not have to grapple with child custody issues, the impact of divorce on adult children and family dynamics is significant. Relationships with children, grandchildren, and in-laws may change, potentially causing emotional distress.

Gray Divorce and Adult Children

The impact of gray divorce on adult children can be complex. The end of a long-term marriage can be emotionally charged and cause feelings of sadness, confusion, and grief among adult children. They may experience emotional turmoil due to the dissolution of their parents’ marriage.

Gray divorce often leads to significant changes in family dynamics. Adult children may have to redefine their roles and relationships within the family. This adjustment can be challenging as they have to navigate a new family structure.

While not actively involved in the divorce process, adult children can still be indirectly impacted by the financial repercussions of a gray divorce. The division of assets, retirement savings, and potential alimony can affect the financial stability of both parents. As a result, the financial support adult children receive or, in some cases, have to provide to their parents may be impacted.

Estate planning and inheritance considerations often involve adult children, and changes in wills, trusts, and beneficiary designations can impact their inheritance and financial futures. For that reason, all family members should have a clear understanding of these changes.

During a gray divorce, maintaining open communication and providing emotional support within the family is important. Adult children can play a vital role in supporting their parents as they navigate the emotional and practical challenges associated with divorce.

Proceeding through a gray divorce can be emotionally challenging. However, with the right support and communication, families can adapt to the changing dynamics and emerge from this transition stronger. Even in later life, seeking happiness and fulfillment is a valid choice. These challenges of gray divorce can be met with support from all family members.

Find a Divorce Lawyer in New Jersey

If your marriage has reached its end, it might be time to contemplate getting a divorce. The legal professionals at the Law Offices of Kelly Berton Rocco can assist you in answering any questions about the divorce process. You can call our office in Hackensack at (201) 343-0078 or schedule a consultation on our website.

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