Too late to start over?

January 4, 2016

Joanne Major, managing director of Major Family Law, reflects on the growing rate of divorce in the over 60s

Recent reports and statistics show that the divorce rate is steadily decreasing, except within one significant sector: the over 60s age group. Divorce statistics produced by the Office for National Statistics show the number of people aged 60 years and over divorcing has risen significantly since the 1990s – by as much as 73 per cent. The Baby Boomers are now Silver Separators!

A number of theories for this increase have been offered, with so-called empty nest syndrome being cited as one of the most significant reasons couples who have been together for many years decide to part company.

With the children having grown up and moved out and with time on their hands together following retirement, mature couples are finding that not only do they have less in common than they thought, but that they are not prepared to simply tolerate each other once their family has moved on. With many people remaining active for longer, some are seeking to make the most of a time in their life without familial ties and with a level of financial certainty.

Despite the average length of marriage of divorcing over 60s being more than 27 years, it seems that is no longer a bar to starting over. It has been suggested that the lessening stigma of divorce contributes to this rising trend, as does the increased financial independence of women.

Ros Altmann, director general of the over 50s group Saga, has said: “For many, it’s the start of the next phase of their lives, not the end of their life as people in the past were often led to expect.”

It’s a fact that we’re living longer and the overall number of people over 60 is increasing.

The reality of these needs sensitive and expert handling: for some, it can leave at least one of the parties to the marriage feeling vulnerable and lonely and seemingly ill-equipped for single life at a mature stage in life, plus dividing possessions and starting again can be deeply traumatic after so many years as part of a couple.

As with everything, a situation which is not going to go away is best faced with an armoury of information and options. Knowing how to source support on a legal and financial level, and more importantly, on an emotional level is key to moving on. Advice on pension entitlement and the effect divorce will have is of course of primary importance for people of this age group.

Equally, this doesn’t mean the end of the road for everyone who finds themselves divorcing later in life. This means, for those who go on to new relationships and perhaps marriages, planning for provision for both new and existing families, which in turn requires advice about having a prenuptial agreement. This is not as materialistic as it may seem when adult children and grandchildren are involved in the extended family.  Divorce changes wills and inheritance issues can be a serious consideration.

We recognise that at Major Family Law and have a number of services specifically designed to support you and ensure that you are able to start a new chapter this New Year with confidence.