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Till our 60s do us part – the rise of the silver divorce

The number of divorces for the over 60s in England & Wales is on the rise. While the fact that people are living longer has been cited as the most likely explanation for this trend, it doesn’t quite paint the full picture.

With the stigma of divorce now no longer a factor, the financial freedom to live life independently and with more and more people committed to living a happy later life, older couples are thinking very carefully about whether they want to spend another 25 years or more living with their current partner.

Agreeing a settlement for over 50s who decide to get divorced however can be a far more complex process than for younger couples. Emotional issues aside, the biggest issue for couples who choose to divorce later in life is that there is less time to recover financially.

Issues that require extra attention in older divorces in include:

  •  The family home. For many older couples the family home is likely to be mortgage free and considered a large matrimonial asset. It can however be difficult later in an individual’s life to obtain a mortgage. Quite often while there is real value in the home it is not enough to provide mortgage free properties for both the husband and the wife. Without dependent children whose needs are prioritised with younger couples, the usual division of property rules may not apply.
  • Pensions. In longer marriages, a pension fund is an important and valuable asset. However In the over 50s age range in many case the husband is/was the main breadwinner and will have built up a considerable pension fund with the wife often reliant on the contributions of her spouse (although the reverse also applies).
  • Maintenance. For older couples there is often a large difference in the earning potential of the husband and wife leading to the issue of maintenance to protect the lowest-earner.
  • Long term care costs. A further consideration is that the number of over 75s living alone has increased by over a fifth since 1996. With long-term care costs for sufferers of conditions like dementia and stroke on the rise, these costs could be even higher should divorce rates continue to rise.

With silver divorces the process involves unravelling a lifetime of assets. Add to this the issue of any debt negotiations and it becomes clear that specialist legal and financial advice is required.

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