Rise in ‘Silver Splitter’ Divorces

August 22, 2015  |   Posted by :   |   Blog

divorce solicitor Thames Valley

The number of ‘silver splitter’ divorces has risen by three quarters in the past twenty years as the over 60s reconsider their decision to stay together, venturing into retirement free and single.

Although the overall divorce rate has fallen since a peak in the 1990s, twice as many couples over 60 are now choosing to separate – rising from 8,700 in 1991 to 15,300 in 2011. The research, carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), also discovered that men over 60 are just as likely to file for divorce as women – a noticeable anomaly as compared to other age groups, where women make up the majority.

Divorcing at 60 or above is a particularly momentous decision for couples, who will have been together, on average, for 30 years or more, while the average duration of marriage before divorce is 11.5 years. However, there are also several advantages to ‘silver splitter’ divorces that may make the process easier on those involved. The financial freedom and high percentage of property ownership enjoyed by the baby boomer generation means that separating and starting a new life is much more viable than those who divorce at a younger age and who are still paying off mortgages or struggling to amass savings.

The ONS findings have attributed the rise in ‘silver splitter’ divorce to a number of factors, such as:

  • Life expectancies are longer and the over 60s can now look forward to a longer retirement (rising from an average of 21 to 26 years) with better health. Many couples who have fallen out of love therefore decide they would rather spend their retirement years apart and start afresh;
  • Pension reforms and changes to the divorce process have also provided an appealing option for older generations. Pension funds can now be split and equalised, and cash accessed more easily, while the standard 50/50 split of assets introduced in 2000 offers stability for the financially weaker partner – such as parents who have stayed at home to look after the children and never pursued a career;
  • Shifting attitudes to relationships and lifestyle have removed the taboo surrounding divorce – couples who would have been averse to separation twenty year ago may now feel more positive about making the decision;
  • When a couple’s children are grown they may experience ’empty nest syndrome’, or feel a sense of fulfilled duty to their family, deciding to go their separate ways without the worry of disrupting their children’s lives;
  • Retirement can be a trigger for a delayed mid-life crisis, prompting a desire to pursue old dreams such as travelling, re-entering education, or finding love again.

Family lawyer Frances Lindsay says: “Silver splitter divorces need to be considered in a new light – many older couples choose not to remarry, and judicial separation may help to protect pensions and provide a better financial outcome for both parties.’

There are several options for divorce over 60, and many couples opt for the less combative method of mediation, or live separately for 2-5 years in order to simplify traditional divorce proceedings. If you need advice on divorce, separation or any aspect of family law, the team at Frances Lindsay & Co are here to take the weight off your shoulders.

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