‘Gray divorce’ continues to become more common — here’s why

Just as it’s never too late to find true love, it’s also never too late to get divorced. In fact, middle-aged and older people in Massachusetts and elsewhere are choosing to end their marriage, often after having been with their husband or wife for decades.

According to The Bend Bulletin, a 2014 study from Bowling Green University found that people age 50 and above were twice as likely to get divorced than people in the same age group in 1990. The divorce rate for people over 65 had increased even faster.

These trends are occurring during a time when the divorce rate has flattened, and even dropped, among younger adults, making the change even more dramatic.

A couple of things may explain this. For one thing, many people in their 50s and 60s have already gotten divorced at least once before. Data indicates that a second marriage is about 2.5 times more likely to end in divorce than first marriages.

Secondly, Americans are living longer than ever before. In the past, someone in their 60s in an unhappy marriage may have figured that they just had a few years left anyway, so why bother with divorce? But now, many people can expect to live into their 80s, if not 90s. The prospect of being with someone you don’t want to be with for that long is not one most of us would want to face.

Interestingly, women over 40 initiate about 60 percent of the divorces for that age range. So older women may feel more free to determine their own lives than they did even 25 years ago.

So-called “gray divorce” has much in common with all other divorces, with some important exceptions. For one thing, the marital property is likely to be more substantial, especially if the couple has been together 20, 30, or 40 years. Also, it is unlikely that child support and child custody will come into play.