Separation, divorce and the over 60s

According to research published last month by the International Longevity Centre (UK), the number of men and women aged over 60 experiencing divorce in England and Wales has risen by a staggering 85% between 1990 and 2012.

The rise is a result of the UK’s increasingly ageing population (the number of people aged over 65 now outweighs the number of under 16s) and a rise in the proportion of older people getting divorced.

Reasons for people divorcing later in life include:

  • People are marrying later in life and because the risk of divorce tends to present itself further into a marriage, couples are more likely to get divorced at an older age.
  • People are living for longer, which naturally means that the lifespan of marriages have increased and with this comes an increased risk of relationship breakdown.
  • Women have more financial independence and many do not need to rely on their husbands for financial support. This means women are less likely to feel ‘stuck’ and more likely to pursue a divorce where there has been a relationship breakdown.
  • Our behaviours and attitudes have changed. Divorce has become less taboo and more common, giving people the opportunity to divorce with less associated stigma.

When we meet older clients who have been married for a long time, it is usually the case that their finances (house, incomes, bank accounts etc.) are entirely ‘joint’. Their incomes get paid into one account, the monthly outgoings are paid out of this account and most if not all aspects of daily life are shared.

This presents a challenge because with a divorce comes a financial clean break as far as that is possible. Things to consider might be:

  • Where will each person live? Is there enough equity in the house to provide two separate households? Will the house need to be sold or is there a possibility that one person could be ‘bought out’? Is finance available for further mortgaging or other borrowing options? What availability is there for local authority housing in the area?
  • How will each person afford day-to-day life as a single person rather than a couple? Does each person earn enough income on their own to be able to afford their monthly outgoings? There might be a possibility for income sharing after the divorce or even a sharing of savings to provide for capital towards living expenses.
  • Does each person have a pension? Long marriages often tend to have children involved which might then mean that there is a disparity in pensions; especially when one person has not worked to concentrate on looking after the children. Pension sharing or offsetting is available to people who are divorcing. Pensions are sometimes the largest asset in a marriage and so it is important in that case for the older client to consider their options when they retire.

If you are considering separating or getting a divorce and would like some advice, call one of our family law experts for a no-obligation chat on 0113 201 4900.

Gabbie  Clasper

Written by

Gabbie Clasper

Head of Family Law

Gabbie has over 20 years’ experience in family law. She has expert knowledge in complex issues including financial aspects following divorce; pre and post-nuptial agreements; cases with an international element; and civil partnerships. Gabbie is regularly instructed by clients based across the country and abroad. She...

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