Will you still love me when I’m 64?

Silver Splitters: the rise of divorce amongst the over 60s

A twin trend has developed in recent years with more couples over 60 getting married, but also more getting divorced after many years of marriage. The increase in the number of over 60s getting divorced has given rise to the term the ‘silver’ or’ grey’ divorce.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that between 2005 and 2015, the number of women over the age of 65 getting divorced rose by almost 20%. The number of men of retirement age getting divorced increased by 8% over the same period.

The increase in the number of over 60s divorcing is actually in contrast to the overall divorce trend which has been decreasing for several years. There were 90,871 divorces of opposite-sex couples in 2018, a decrease of 10.6% compared with 2017 and the lowest number since 1971.

So, what are the causes of this trend amongst the over 60s?
The UK’s ageing population is likely to be one. As the babyboomer generation are now in this age bracket, there are simply more people in this age group. There is also the cultural shift that has taken place over the past few decades meaning that divorce now doesn’t have the social stigma attached to it that it once had and has in turn, encouraged more people to end a difficult marriage. Another factor which may have an influence is the increasing number of women in employment, giving them more financial independence. The increase in life expectancy could also mean that as people remain fitter for longer, they decide not to put up with an unhappy marriage in retirement.

Many people who have ‘kept together for the sake of the children’ realise they have little keeping them together once the children have left home. Once children reach the age of 18, child maintenance is no longer payable, so this could be a reason that older men are more likely to instigate a divorce than younger ones. Conversely, fewer women than men initiate divorce over the age of 60. This could possibly be down to the fact that many are more reliant on their husband’s pension having put their careers (and pensions) on hold to raise a family. (Read our blog about Pensions and Divorce for more on this issue).

4 key issues ‘Silver Splitters’ should consider
Although one may assume divorcing without dependents might be simpler, this is not necessarily the case and there are a range of legal and financial issues which should be considered when divorcing later in life. Divorce and separation at or approaching retirement age generally means that a parting couple’s finance are more intertwined than those who divorce when they are younger. There also tend to be more assets in the equation. As well as the emotional turmoil that divorce can cause at any age, with or without children involved, there are also more practical considerations such as splitting properties, pensions, inheritance tax, and other tax implications which are magnified when divorcing later in life.

Rachel Macwilliam, our family law specialist, examines 3 key issues which should be considered when divorcing later in life.

1. Two houses from one
As it is harder to get a mortgage as you get older because of your life expectancy and declining earning potential, the existing marital home usually must be sold in order to buy two smaller properties. When younger couples divorce, sometimes one partner can give the existing property to the other as part of the settlement as they still have the earning potential to get a mortgage alone.
2. Wills
It is essential for any couple divorcing to update their existing Wills, but it is even more pressing for those who aren’t exactly in the first flush of youth, for obvious reasons. It is also important to update life insurance policies and any beneficiaries named in ‘Death in Service’ arrangements which were possibly made many years ago.
3. Pensions
It was more common in generations who married in the 1960s and 1970s for a wife not to work and to stay at home to bring up a family. This meant that women of this generation frequently rely on their husband’s pension. This means that on divorce, as a pension is considered an ‘asset’ it can be split. There are three main ways of doing this. The whole amount can be handed to one person with the other getting an amount of equal value from another of the couple’s assets e.g. the house; it can be “earmarked” (now called a pension attachment order) which happens when money starts to be paid out from the pension and is divided between the former couple (such orders are now not common); or lastly the pot can be split between them which is known as “pension sharing” (which is the more common order these days if a pension is split between the former couple).

Get in touch
If you need legal advice relating to divorce and separation our experienced and friendly family law team at Penderlaw would be glad to help.  Just call us on 01872 241408 or email us family@penderlaw.co.uk