Divorce in Older Adults over 50

Divorce Rates Over Age 50 on the Rise

The term “Gray Divorce” describes the increasing trend of couples over the age of 50 ending their marriages. While divorce has always held a certain social stigma, the rate of divorce among older couples is skyrocketing. This surge has a ripple effect throughout families and communities, which brings us to the question: Why now?

Factors Driving Later-in-Life Divorce

Unlike the impulsiveness sometimes associated with younger couples, the lead-up to divorce after decades of marriage is often a complex and deeply personal journey. Here are some of the key factors driving the gray divorce trend.

The Empty Nest

Children have long been a central focus for many couples. When those children leave home, couples face a dramatic shift. They now have more time for themselves and, as a result, more time to reflect on the state of their relationship.

Sometimes, this leads to rediscovery and renewed connection, but for others, it reveals just how far apart they’ve grown.

Longevity and Shifting Priorities

People are living longer, healthier lives than ever before. With decades of potential life ahead, the question “Is this how I want to spend the rest of my days?” holds new weight. Individuals may yearn for greater fulfillment, to pursue passions put on hold, or simply to rediscover a sense of self within the marriage or outside it.

Financial Independence

More women today have careers and financial independence, which was far less common in previous generations. This eliminates a major barrier to divorce – the fear of economic hardship after leaving a marriage.

Waning Social Stigma

Societal pressure to stay in an unhappy marriage “for appearances” has gradually lessened. Divorce is becoming less taboo, especially among older individuals who prioritize their own wellbeing.

Signs of a Failing Marriage

While every marriage experiences ups and downs, some challenges point to foundational problems that may be irreparable.

Constant Criticism and Contempt

Healthy disagreements focus on specific behaviors. However, when criticism becomes personal attacks and belittling remarks are commonplace, it signals a breakdown in respect. Eye-rolling, sarcasm, and dismissive attitudes reveal contempt – a deep feeling of disdain that erodes the very foundation of a loving relationship.

Stonewalling and Emotional Distance

During conflict, a degree of emotional withdrawal is a natural defense mechanism. However, stonewalling goes beyond needing a cooling-off period. It’s a complete refusal to engage – shutting down verbally and non-verbally (avoiding eye contact, turning away).

Recurring stonewalling leaves the other partner feeling unseen, unheard, and deeply isolated. This pattern indicates one or both parties are emotionally disinvesting from the marriage.

Apathy or Lack of Joy

Early in a relationship, a couple experiences a kind of joyful intoxication with each other. As time passes, this matures into a comfortable closeness. If that comfort gives way to apathy, it’s a significant warning sign. This lack of joy manifests as boredom, indifference, and a lack of desire to spend time together outside of obligations. Shared laughter fades, meaningful connection dwindles, and the marriage is reduced to an empty shell.

Outside Influences

Every relationship is shaped by external factors. However, the destructive influence of infidelity, addiction, or controlling family members can destabilize even a strong marriage.  Infidelity breaks trust, which is incredibly difficult to rebuild.  Addiction creates a cycle of broken promises and unreliable behavior, leaving a partner shouldering burdens alone. Toxic family dynamics can put a wedge between spouses, forcing loyalty divisions that the marriage may not survive.

These signs don’t guarantee divorce is imminent. If both partners recognize these dangers, there may be a path to healing. However, ignoring them dramatically increases the chances of the marriage dissolving.

Can a Troubled Marriage Be Saved?

Not every rough patch demands a divorce, but addressing marital issues requires honest introspection and the willingness of both partners to change.


Open communication can definitely help! Start with an honest, empathetic conversation. Approach your partner with vulnerability and a willingness to listen without defensiveness.

If communication at home isn’t on the table, couples counseling may be in order. A therapist provides a safe space to unpack issues, learn effective communication tools, and explore the root of your problems.

Focus on reviving shared interests, carving out time for meaningful connection, and relearning how to appreciate one another.


No matter your approach, remember, rebuilding a relationship often takes time. Show yourself and your partner grace as you navigate difficult emotions.


Sometimes, even with deep commitment, the healthiest option is to go separate ways.  Yet, for those willing to put in the work, addressing problems head-on might just save your marriage. Gray divorce is about choices – both the original choice to marry and the later choice each individual makes about their happiness and their future.

Divorce Attorney in Fort Worth, TX

I’m Spencer Nilsson, a divorce attorney in Fort Worth, Texas. In 2013, I founded Nilsson Legal Group, focusing solely on family law. Since then, our attorneys have helped many clients over the age of 50 in Tarrant County and nearby areas achieve favorable outcomes within the Tarrant County court system. We are skilled divorce attorneys committed to providing compassionate and skilled representation. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for a free consultation.