Living with a spouse with whom you are no longer in love can be an exhausting and painful emotional challenge. Enduring years of an unhappy marriage can even feel unbearable. Some couples choose to divorce after a few short months of marriage; other people remain married for decades before parting.

Divorce can occur at any age, including past 50. In fact, the divorce rate among U.S. adults past the age of 50 has doubled since the 90s, and will likely continue to increase. So, why are more older couples, many of whom have been married for more than half their lives, choosing to split?

A rising rate of gray divorce

Every divorce is different. Divorce past the age of 50, also called “gray divorce,” happens for many reasons. First, the life expectancy in the United States is much higher now than it was in previous decades. People are living much longer, and feel that if they divorce, they still have several exciting years ahead of them.

In addition, gender roles have shifted significantly in recent decades. Women have more financial and professional power than they did previously. Wives who once had no option but to remain married now have more power to divorce if they choose to.

Finally, modern-day couples have a much lower stigma against divorce. In the past, divorce was an option only in extreme cases. But couples today feel that they have the option to separate or divorce if they are no longer in love.

Gray divorce has many unique challenges

Couples who divorce after 50 face challenges that younger couples don’t. For example, many senior citizens have much more property and other assets than younger couples. This poses a significant challenge regarding property division. Older couples must also adjust their existing estate plans to reflect their post-divorce wishes. While gray divorce comes with its challenges, it can also be the best choice for many senior couples.