In a recent episode of Ask Lloyd, he was joined by Cherie Morris, a divorce coach in Montgomery County who works with clients nationwide through her business, “Dear Divorce Coach.” These two experts in divorce saw eye to eye about a range of issues that come up in a grey divorce, and they offered some important insights. Their wisdom is essential since grey divorce has almost doubled in the last 30 years, and researchers predict it will triple by 2030.
What is a Grey Divorce?
The term “grey divorce” was coined by the AARP in 2004 when it released a study on the issue, and it describes divorces between older couples. Generally, it refers to people past their 50s who often have been married for decades. Some of the study’s findings continue to apply to today’s landscape, while others have changed somewhat. For example, since increasing numbers of people are having children later in life, some grey divorces include issues about children who are still minors. On the other hand, matters relating to retirement and aging continue to be typical of grey divorces.
Divorcing For the Right Reason
Many people considering a grey divorce face the prospect of ending a relationship that has lasted for decades with critical milestones and experiences like raising children. Both Cherie and Lloyd agree that, if possible, before pulling the trigger on a divorce at this point in the marriage, it is a good idea to consult with an expert. An attorney can identify important considerations regarding legal rights and obligations. Other experts, like a coach or a therapist, can help get to the bottom of the dissatisfaction driving thoughts of divorce. Cherie notes that if the dissatisfaction comes from somewhere else, divorce won’t solve the problem.
On the other hand, there are good reasons to seek a divorce later in life. For abusive or benign reasons, a spouse may be occupying all of the attention and space in a person’s life, isolating them from friends, family, and other support. This isolation is particularly dangerous for older people who will need help and community as they age and find some things more challenging to do on their own. A spouse might think they are all their partner needs, but this isn’t the case, and it’s a red flag to consider leaving for a healthier environment.
Contemplating the End of an Era
Older couples have built a life together and have certain quality-of-life expectations that a divorce will challenge. When a marital couple’s assets are divided, the result will always be less for both sides, so it’s important to be prepared for a potentially unpleasant change in circumstances. This doesn’t mean that a person should accept less than their due, and for older couples, this means a fair division of retirement accounts, pensions, and other sources of financial support in later years.
The end of an era also can include long-term relationships with children. While younger children are more likely to be traumatized by divorce, adult children are also impacted by the end of their parent’s relationship. Family celebrations and important events like marriages and the birth of grandchildren will continue to occur. All adults must work on managing these events with some level of grace, even though a new divorce can make it hard. It’s important not to pull children into the conflict, as this frequently backfires. Cherie advises that parents should focus on separating from their ex, which also means separating from blame and taking ownership of your thoughts and emotions as you move forward in life.
A grey divorce can be frightening as it may feel like a recipe for isolation. The truth is that older people are divorcing and also entering into new relationships. In a future blog, we will discuss how remarriage as an older adult has nuances that may call for careful planning through a prenuptial agreement.