While divorce rates are falling in the UK, the number of people over 60 who are getting divorced is on the rise.
There are a number of reasons for this change in divorce trends, with dramatic changes in life expectancy being one.
It seems that the “baby boomer” generation is also starting to develop a more relaxed attitude to divorce given how common divorce is among the younger generations. Some couples stay together until the children have flown the nest but then realise that without the children at home there is a significant change of dynamic between them, and they now have little in common save for the children. With couples being of the view that they want to enjoy their retirement rather than continuing in an unhappy marriage, they are making the bold decision to get divorced and move on with their lives.
New trends are showing that men who are over 60 are instigating divorce proceedings just as much as women. Women are finding that with greater employment prospects and financial independence, they are not afraid to go it alone while a number of men are experiencing a “delayed midlife crisis” or simply waiting until they have fulfilled their obligations to their wife and family before deciding to start a new life alone.
It’s often the case that couples over 60 years old have had an opportunity to build up significant assets over a number of decades. In addition, with it being more common for modern women to work as well their husbands, they will have had an opportunity to build up their own pensions and so divorce among the over 60s can be a reasonably straightforward process.
However, in some divorce cases it's just not that easy. It is still common for men of the “baby boomer” generation to be the main breadwinner and for the wife to either not work or work a part time job to keep busy.
In these cases where there is likely to be only the former matrimonial home up for division along with the husband’s pension and either no pension or a minimal pension built up by the wife, it will be a difficult task to ensure that both the wife’s and the husband’s needs are adequately met.
Due to the couples’ ages, they are likely to have a minimal earning capacity and the pensions that have accrued during the marriage are likely to be their main source of income. There will also be little or no opportunity for them to continue building up their pensions after the divorce and therefore the pension pot that is up for division is all that they have.
While the pensions may have provided enough income for the couple to live comfortably while they were together, it’s a different story when trying to divide this between two households. In addition, there may not be enough capital in the former matrimonial home to be able to rehouse both the husband and wife and with little or no earning capacity, it’s unlikely that either of them will be able to raise a mortgage.
Given the potential difficulties that can arise with divorcing couples who are in their retirement or approaching retirement, it’s essential that specialist legal advice is sought. At Slater and Gordon Lawyers, we provide expert legal advice to all couples who are getting a divorce, and we can provide practical solutions taking into account the individual circumstances of each case.
Joanne Green is a Family Law & Divorce Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Milton Keynes.
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