A grey social revolution is happening, with people in their late 50’s and 60’s divorcing at a higher rate than ever before.
In the last decade, the Office of National Statistics reported that in the 65+ demographic, there had been a 38% increase in women divorcing men and a 23% increase in men divorcing women.
This demonstrates that older couples are splitting when they’re expected to be most settled. Divorce rates in older couples have been on the rise for many years. There may be various reasons behind this, and whatever they are, this reflects the change in social attitudes towards marriage and divorce.
Divorce is much more acceptable than it once was, and more couples realise that they can separate amicably and lead happier lives, single or with new partners.
Older couples are more likely to have older children who have left home to study or work. Whilst the empty nest can cause problems in any marriage, the empty nest itself can end the obligation to “stay together for the children”, resulting in the perfect storm for those in unhappy marriages.
Another divorce driver could be the prospect of a long retirement in an unhappy marriage. As life expectancy increases, those retiring may carefully consider who they wish to spend the rest of their lives with. The various lockdowns of the last 18 months have only added to the desire to make the most of life, with some feeling re-energised and ready to move onto pastures new.
Nearly twice the number of women initiate divorce than men in the over 65’s. This age group are part of a generation who have lived through feminism, the workplace, and the struggle of being sandwiched between looking after children and ageing parents. They may now feel more liberated than ever and realise that they do not wish to spend the winter of their life with their spouse of many years.
The statistics show that men over 65 who leave their marriages are more likely to remarry, and the majority of those that do, remarry someone under 65.
Divorcing in your later years is not without its difficulties. Your finances will likely have been intertwined for decades, and when it comes to agreeing on a split of assets, financial needs will be the most important consideration. What may have looked like a comfortable retirement can look very different when assets are divided in two.
It is important to think about what income you will have when you retire, and it is essential that you do not overlook pensions when working out your finances.
Pension benefits will often be the largest asset after the family home, and it is important to understand the range of options available when dealing with pensions.
In proceedings for divorce, nullity or the dissolution of a civil partnership, the Court has the power the share pension savings between parties. Pension sharing orders work by telling the providers of a pension fund to transfer a percentage of the transfer value to the party who is going to benefit from the order. This means that it is your own pension, and it is not affected by your spouse or civil partner dying or remarrying in the future.
Regarding state pensions, if you are a married woman not entitled to a basic state pension based on your own national insurance contributions, or if it is less than £82.45 a week, you may be able to increase your state pension based on your husband’s national insurance record when he reaches state pension age. You can check your state pension forecast and how to increase it here.
In most cases, it is necessary to instruct a pension on divorce expert to consider pensions and report on pension sharing or pension offsetting.
It is important that both parties seek legal advice early to ascertain what would constitute a fair financial settlement for them.