Skip to Content
Get The Legal Help You Need! 704-289-3250

Do Empty Nesters Get Divorced?


Many parents eagerly await the day their last child moves out and they can refocus on themselves and each other. While this becomes a reality for many couples, “gray divorce” is on the rise. Divorce rates for people over 50 have doubled since 1990 and tripled for those over 65. With divorce rates on the rise, here are some of the reasons empty nesters are choosing to end their marriages. 

Reasons for Divorce Among Empty Nesters

Empty Nest Syndrome 

While it’s not a clinical diagnosis, empty nest syndrome is a common reality for many parents. You’ve raised your children to be independent adults and may even be excited about the idea of letting them “fly the coop.” But when the time comes, you may feel extreme sadness and a profound loss as your last child leaves the family home. 

Empty nest syndrome can be characterized by intense feelings of loss that can lead parents to further issues such as depression, alcoholism, identity crisis, and marital conflicts. Parents struggle to accept this new phase in their lives and tend to withdraw from friends, loved ones, and even their spouses. Since both parents don’t experience empty nest syndrome the same way — one parent may not experience it at all — this can drive a wedge into the marriage and lead to divorce. 

If you think you are dealing with symptoms of empty nest syndrome, there are a few things you can do to overcome this challenging time, including: 

  • Maintain strong contact with your children
  • Lean on other family and friends for support
  • Maintaining self-care
  • Focusing on your own hopes and dreams for the future 

Financial Issues 

Financial issues cause a big strain on any marriage, especially as we age since there is less time to recover from monetary misuse. Another problem arises as a result of one parent having stayed home with the children for years while the other parent was the main breadwinner. This situation causes a divide between spouses when it comes to spending and saving money, which can cause contention and lead to divorce. 

Growing Apart 

After decades of caring for and raising children, you may find that you’ve grown apart from your spouse. Child-rearing takes a lot of time and focus and oftentimes parents stop putting effort into the marriage because the children take precedence. This is usually not intentional on either side but it becomes a problem when the children are gone and you feel like you’re living with a stranger. 

The feeling of growing apart is further exacerbated by empty nest syndrome, especially if one parent doesn’t seem to be affected by the situation. The sadness from an empty nest can also lead to depression, which can cause withdrawal and separation from the relationship. 

Lack of Common Interests 

If you struggled to nurture and maintain your marriage outside of raising children, you may find that you don’t have anything in common with your spouse anymore. The activities and hobbies you enjoyed together before kids may not be the same or might not be feasible with age. If spouses find they have nothing in common anymore, they often see little reason to stay together and choose to end the marriage instead of staying with someone they can’t connect to anymore. 

Staying for the Kids 

Staying in a marriage for the kids isn’t always the best option but divorce is hard on every member of the family, which is why many parents choose to stick it out for the sake of the children. Once the kids move out and the couple finds themselves alone again, many parents decide it is finally time to end the marriage. Without the joint effort of raising children and maintaining the family home, empty nesters are likely to head for divorce in their later years. 

Rise in Infidelity 

No kids in the home, a lack of common interests, and growing apart can all lead to infidelity after parents become empty nesters. In fact, reports from Ashley Madison, an online dating app for people already married or in relationships, indicated that roughly 50% of their members joined the site after one or more children moved out. The drastic change from a full house to an empty nest can lead people to seek comfort and excitement outside the marriage and — when revealed — increases divorce rates in empty nesters. 

Are You Facing an Empty Nest Divorce?

If your children have flown the coop and you’ve realized your marriage won’t last, Collins Family & Elder Law Group can help you with the divorce process. Our legal professionals have extensive experience with divorce, property and debt division, spousal support, and more. You’ve spent decades raising your children and you deserve to make your golden years the best they can be. Get in touch with Collins Family & Elder Law Group in North and South Carolina today to start discussing your empty nester divorce options. 

staff logo