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Bill Gates, age 65, and Melinda, 56, now find themselves headed to divorce court, and the dissolution has shocked many followers of the Microsoft icons. The famous couple spent 27 years in matrimony before deciding to part ways. Such “gray divorces” are not uncommon in California as many older people find their marriages breaking up during their senior years.

Gray divorces are more common today

The Gates’ divorce might be reflective of many older couples who grow apart over the years. Divorce doesn’t come with the stigma it once had, so separations and dissolutions might become preferred options for spouses who no longer get along. An examination of over-50 and over-60 divorce rates today shows a remarkable increase over decades past. Several reasons contribute to higher rates of divorce.

Gray divorces happen for many reasons

“Empty nest syndrome” may play a role in a couple’s decision to divorce. Children in the home may create a strong family bond, and when the children move out, the bond no longer exists.

There are other commonplace reasons why older people break up. Spouses may grow apart over time, and their attitudes and interests could change. Couples may find out they don’t have much in common anymore, and the marriage crumbles when they imagine spending another 20 or 30 years together in retirement. Individuals’ lifespans are longer than they used to be, so couples might decide they would be happier separating than trying to make it work for many more years.

Older individuals may have more complicated assets to divide, so it’s recommended to have a divorce attorney assist with the legal process. An attorney may be able to negotiate a settlement that is amicable for all parties.