The number of divorces amongst the over 60s – sometimes nicknamed ‘silver splitters’ or ‘grey divorces’ – has been steadily increasing in the UK, US, Canada, Japan, Australia and India over the past decade.
The rise in divorce rates for this age group has been attributed to a number of different causes, such as: longer lifespans; greater financial independence in dual-income households; and a reduced stigma around divorce. Often, the catalyst for separation comes when a couple reaches a milestone like retirement and transition into a new phase of life. Perhaps their children have all grown and flown the nest. Perhaps they’re considering downsizing and selling the family home. Or perhaps it’s simply time to move on. Whatever the reason for divorcing in this period of life, there are several specific issues that are particularly pertinent for older couples, such as the division of retirement assets, and concerns over future healthcare needs or financially-dependent spouses who may need continuing support.
Retirement benefits and future proofing should be high on the list of priorities for separating couples over the age of 60. Starting a new career or building up pension assets is not something you want to be worrying about later in life, but the good news is that this age group are often better off financially in terms of property ownership, savings, and pensions, compared to younger couples, and they do not usually have the added complication of making arrangements for dependent children. However, divorcing when you have older children poses its own challenges (as outlined in our recent blog) and adult children may expect to be more involved in decisions regarding the family home, future assets, wills and probate. As with any divorce, any specific needs or disputes will need to be dealt with on an individual basis, with the support of a solicitor, but there are a few more general ways to help streamline the process and take into account the unique requirements of the over 60s:
- Consider a post-nuptial agreement if you can see yourself parting ways in the future. Having your intentions set out clearly in an official document can help to remove some of the conflict that often arises when trying to make decisions about divorce.
- Look at your retirement plans and how they might be affected by separation. This includes wills and probate, Lasting Powers of Attorney, estate planning, plans for inheritance, and retirement income.
- Make a thorough account of any assets, debts, property, businesses, savings, insurance and pensions, along with a realistic budget for maintaining or downsizing your current lifestyle.
- Be aware that any decisions you make about retirement income, pensions, equity release, and wills may be affected if you remarry at a later date.
- Set clear expectations for the future and do your best to communicate with your spouse about best to proceed in both your interests. Use the advice of your solicitor and focus on creating a stable financial future.
- Going to court should always be a last resort – if at all possible, use other forms of out of court dispute resolutions to help you find a way forward.
Ending a relationship – especially one that you may have been in for a considerable amount of time – can be a huge transition. But all these preparations help to frame difficult conversations before they arise, and allow you to plan for a future after divorce with peace of mind.
For more advice on separation, property, equity release, future proofing your finances, wills and end-of-life planning, get in touch with our team of friendly family solicitors at Frances Lindsay & Co.