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The Changing Face of Divorce – ’till retirement do us part?

You may be surprised to find out that whilst the divorce rate in England & Wales is declining, the number of divorces for the over 60s is on the rise.  A further unexpected statistic* is that in the population as a whole, 34% of divorces are granted to men, whereas in the over 60s this rises to 50%.  

A senior family law solicitor reported “I have older couples divorcing, some even in their 70s and 80s.  There are many studies that have looked into the reasons behind the growing trend for divorce in the over 60s.  The main factors are that not only is there an increasing ageing population i.e. the baby boomers are retiring, but there is a loss of stigma attached to divorce.  Also a couple may have waited for the children to grow up and to be financially independent of them before starting the divorce process.  Another factor is the often quoted lament upon retirement known as the ‘under my feet syndrome’.  This can be experienced along with the dawning realization that, with an increase in life expectancy, the ‘Third Age’ could be a long and unhappy one if you are not content in the relationship.

The decision to divorce may also be affected by the fact that the starting point for financial settlements in long marriages is likely to be a 50:50 division of assets and pensions albeit careful consideration needs to be given to the pension arrangement. This knowledge can, in itself, make the divorce process less contentious. When taken together with the fact that child maintenance is unlikely to be an issue, divorce for the over 60s, can be relatively straightforward in some cases.

However, not all ‘older’ divorces are long marriages.  For some couples it could be their second marriage, where the financial arrangements may be more complicated, particularly where there are previously acquired assets which they would wish to preserve, not least for any children of the first marriage.

A divorce at any age is stressful but with expert advice on the relevant issues both parties can start again with dignity and confidence.”

*Office of National Statistics


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