Divorce in later life

28th February ‘19

Figures published recently by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have confirmed that marriages and divorces are on the rise for those aged 65 and over. In fact, the number of people marrying aged 65 and over has increased by a staggering 46% from 2004 to 2014. The Times and the Guardian have affectionately called this group “the silver splicers” and “the silver separators” for those who end and start new relationships in the later part of their lives. This upward trend of divorces in later life has been linked to the Baby Boomer generation where many of these spouses have been together for more than half their lives but are now wanting to separate.

So what is the reason behind the shift? The ONS identified that one factor is that older people are forming new relationships as age expectancy increases and their health and wellness is improving. I certainly have witnessed a number of clients who feel that they deserve more and want to enjoy all that life has to offer them. As the Telegraph reported; “As we live longer, humanity is increasingly refusing to sit back, put its feet up and settle for a quiet old age.”

Another possibility for this growing trend is that parents may have stayed together until their children reach a certain age or go to University and then acknowledge that actually they both could be happier if they separated. Couples have reported simply that they have grown apart and are looking to try new pastimes or challenges which their spouse does not want to be involved with. Others have said that this is not necessarily because they want to be in another relationship but because they simply want to enjoy a period of change where they feel more freedom without the commitment.

This has also coincided with greater financial independence for those aged 65 and over. Arguably, that generation are living longer and working longer, but also have a greater ability to support themselves. The potential fear of divorce is perhaps somewhat reduced when they are more ‘financially savvy’ and self-sufficient outside of their relationship. Over 50s have been recognised as one the most powerful demographic ages in the UK as they are some of the wealthiest whilst also reaching the stage where they have more disposable income particularly once their children become independent and they can follow new lifestyles and aspirations.

Several clients have commented that previously they considered that they would be lonely if they separated but with the onset of social media and the internet, they feel connected and supported by their network of friends and family and the thought of separating becomes less daunting. There is the opportunity of meeting new people on online dating or friendship networks once they do divorce which has also encouraged others who may have not previously felt confident to separate from a long-term spouse.

Another school of thought is that the ‘divorce stigma’ which may have historically bound unhappy couples to stay together in a bid to honour “till death us do part” is weakening. It could be argued that there is a greater acknowledgement in our current society that everyone deserves to be happy whether single or married, at whatever age and as life expectancy increases, people are realising that they still have lots of opportunities to fulfil a more rewarding and content lifestyle.

Despite all this, divorce at any age is a big step and should be considered very carefully. A divorce in your 60s may mean disentangling two lifetimes of assets and debts with the additional consideration of planning for retirement and dividing pensions which has its own complexities. Equally, a second marriage has its own practical considerations to ensure that individuals are adequately protected and emotionally prepared. It would also be worthwhile considering entering into a pre-nuptial agreement particularly when considering a second marriage.

Whatever the shift, it appears it is here to stay. The International Longevity Centre in the UK has predicted that by 2037, almost 1 in every 10 people experiencing divorce will be aged over 60.

If you are considering a divorce or separation or would like any more information about this article, please contact Naheed Taj, Head of Family – [email protected]

This paper is intended to be a brief note for clients and other interested parties. The information is believed to be correct at the date of publication but should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional advice. Please speak to a member of our team.

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