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Coping with Midlife Divorce

Divorce is less likely when couples are older and have been married longer. However, recent trends indicate that this is no longer the norm.

Over the years, divorce among people above age fifty has risen steadily. In fact, the divorce rate for individuals fifty years old and higher doubled between 1990 and 2010. By 2010, twenty-five percent of divorcees were in the fifty-plus age group.

Coping with Midlife Divorce

Welcome to the gray divorce revolution.

Older couples are more mature but midlife divorce can still take an emotional toll on seniors. While older couples don’t have to deal with child custody issues, they do have to handle some issues younger couples do not.

Here are some of the mental, legal and economic challenges faced by couples who divorce in midlife.

The Economics of Midlife Divorce

Gray divorce presents some unique economic challenges for spouses. For example, the older a person’s age, the weaker their earning and employment potential. As a result, a judge in a gray divorce case may be concerned about a senior spouse’s ability to support themselves following a divorce. Alimony is much more likely to be granted in this situation.

Another economic challenge faced by older couples is the equitable distribution of marital assets. As part of the divorce decree, the judge will divide property, assets and debt between the spouses. This includes bank accounts, stock investments and retirement funds accumulated during a marriage.

However, couples in their fifties and sixties have less time and more to rebuild following a divorce. This can make the division of marital assets troublesome for older couples.

Do Older Couples Who Divorce Have More Emotional Difficulties?

Midlife divorcees may also encounter different emotional challenges than those experienced by younger couples.

For many, ages fifty and sixty are significant milestones. People in this age group may see their lives heading in a different direction. Their children are most likely grown and have left the family home. They may want to experience more freedom, express themselves more openly or pursue lifelong dreams.

Their spouse however may not feel the same and this conflict can precipitate divorce.

The spouse that is left behind may make the divorce more difficult. For example, they may be more emotionally attached to the family home and may fight hard to keep it as part of the divorce settlement.

When this is the case, negotiations over high-value marital assets may be more difficult.

Consulting with an experienced divorce attorney is crucial for older spouses contemplating divorce. A qualified divorce attorney can negotiate an optimal settlement that protects an older spouse’s assets.


Stephanie M.

Friday 30th of September 2016

Divorce is one of the hardest things you can go through except losing someone you love. For many people it can take many years to get over this. Your article was fantastic and interesting at the same time. Thank you for taking the time to share this resource.


Friday 10th of July 2015

Gray Divorce is real. I went through it, and even though I knew in my head it was the right thing and I'd be better off, it still hurt a lot. It's not easy, and it's not fun. But you come out of it knowing yourself better, and being able to hit the reset button and become "you" again. Which gives you a great chance to find someone who's better aligned with who you are now. Ideally, my ex and I would have stayed right for each other our entire lives. But we didn't. Divorce was right for both of us.

Stella Chiu

Thursday 9th of July 2015

Hi, LIsa

Being a midlife woman who divorced 12 years ago after 20 years of marriage, I had deep feeling when I read your article. You even gave a name for it: Gray Divorce. There are 2 issues for us divorcing midlife. One is the opportunity to build back the career after as stay at home mom for so long. Second, the hurt feeling goes deeper because longer time was being spent together Each case is different, but you did give a good general account - Stella'

Miriam Iwrey

Thursday 9th of July 2015

Thank you Lisa for writing about this trend. Not only is divorce difficult for some at this stage in life but so is post divorce.

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