What is a Grey Divorce?

People of all ages file for divorce in North Carolina. However, the divorce rate among older adults is rising. Older adults have often been married for a long time, which can create challenging issues for dividing property, alimony, estate planning, and health care. Our North Carolina divorce attorneys discuss the unique challenges of grey divorces in this must-read blog.

What Is a Grey Divorce in North Carolina?

The term grey divorce describes a divorce between spouses in their 50s or older. Many people also use the term gray divorce to describe divorces involving older individuals.

Older couples file for divorce for many of the same reasons other couples divorce, including adultery, abandonment, and domestic violence. However, reasons for grey divorce also include, but are not limited to:

  • The couple has grown apart over the years and no longer has a close relationship
  • Their children have left home (empty nest syndrome), and the couple realizes they were only together for their children
  • Disagreements about how they want to spend their retirement years (i.e., travel versus stay at home)
  • A lack of physical intimacy or emotional connection 
  • The spouses realize they want to pursue other relationships because life is too short to stay in a loveless marriage 

The divorce rate for older couples has traditionally been lower than the average rate of divorce in other age groups. However, grey divorces have increased substantially in the past few decades. There was a slight increase in divorces among older people in 1970 and 1990. However, the rate of divorce among seniors doubled in 2010. A 2021 report by the U.S. Census Department reported a significant increase in the divorce rate for older Americans. 

Issues Involved in Grey Divorces 

The divorce process for grey divorces is the same as other divorces in North Carolina. The issues the couple faces depend on their circumstances. However, grey divorces can involve several issues unique to untangling and dividing a long life together. Issues that couples need to address in a grey divorce could include, but are not limited to:

  • Property division is based on equitable division, which may or may not be a 50/50 split of marital assets. Spouses married for a long time often accumulate substantial assets that can be difficult to divide. Many items may have sentimental value that is impossible to translate into a dollar amount.
  • Retirement accounts could also have substantial funds that must be divided. There could be questions about allocating interests based on a spouse’s financial and non-financial contributions to a spouse’s career. Also, an ex-spouse can sometimes qualify for Social Security benefits, so that might be a factor in dividing retirement accounts and property. 
  • Health insurance can be a significant issue in a grey divorce. An individual does not qualify for Medicare until they are 65 years old. However, obtaining health insurance coverage in your 50s and early 60s could be expensive. Therefore, if one spouse provides health insurance coverage for the family, a divorce could place a significant burden on the spouse who does not have their own health insurance coverage.
  • Spousal support in a long-term marriage can be tricky, especially if a spouse has been a stay-at-home spouse for most of the marriage. A judge may order permanent alimony in long-term marriages. 

Life insurance and estate planning are other issues in grey divorces. Couples often tie their estate plans to each other. Divorcing can require a spouse to make significant changes to their estate plan. 

Schedule a Free Consultation With Our North Carolina Family Law Attorneys 

Whether you file for divorce in your 20s or 70s, you benefit by seeking legal advice from an experienced North Carolina divorce lawyer. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation with one of our experienced North Carolina family law attorneys.