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Silver separations

The latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics confirm that there were 126,716 divorces in the UK in 2013, a decrease of 2.9% on…

The latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirm that there were 126,716 divorces in the UK in 2013, a decrease of 2.9% when compared with 130,473 divorces in 2012. The statistics show that the overall number of divorces has decreased across almost all age groups with the exception over the over 50s who's rate of divorce has reached a 40-year high!  The increasing number of couples aged 50 or over who are filing for divorce highlights a trend of 'silver separations' which has developed over the years and looks set to continue.

We consider the possible explanations for the recent rise in the 'silver splitters' at a time when overall rates of divorce are tumbling year upon year.

Empty nest syndrome

It is not uncommon to see couples drift apart as a result of 'empty nest syndrome' when the children have grown up, gone to University or left the family home. This can have a major impact on the dynamic between a couple and issues which may have been swept under the carpet for the sake of the children have now resurfaced again. Also, with life expectancy rising, people in unhappy relationships may no longer be willing to spend another 20 or 30 years together.

Fresh start

Another reason may be a change in attitudes. People no longer want to wind down for a quiet retirement but instead see post-retirement life as a chance for a new start where they no longer have any responsibility for children and can focus solely on themselves.

Financial independence

In the past people may have felt compelled to stay together in old age or may have felt financially constrained to do so. In what are still tough economic times older couples tend to have more financial independence. In comparison to the younger generation who are struggling to get a foot on the housing ladder, middle-class retired couples often occupy properties and assets valuable enough to provide for both parties with the means to 'start again'.

Couples at this stage in their lives are likely to have built up a number of assets between them, that need serious consideration. There may be a number of pensions, properties and other assets involved which is why it is crucial to seek specialist legal advice when dealing with financial settlement as a result of divorce.

Commonly women who have taken career breaks to raise children and look after the family home may not have had the opportunity to build up a substantial pension in comparison to their husbands. It is key for women in this situation to obtain specialist legal advice to discover whether they are entitled to some of the value in their partner’s pension and if so how much that consideration may be.

It can also be difficult for people over the age of 50 to get another mortgage and therefore it is important to seek advice on how the housing needs of both parties will be met from the existing parties resources.  It is important to for people to remember that divorce does not necessarily have to mean a long, costly court battle. There are other out-of-court approaches such as mediation and collaborative law which could be less costly and time-consuming for couples.