A recent report by the Office for National Statistics has revealed that whilst the overall rate of divorce fell by 11% between 2007-2009 divorce amongst the over 60s rose by 4%, with more than 11,500 couples aged 60 and above who were granted a divorce, the so-called silver separators.
The reason for this sudden change of trend is down to a number of factors. Often the trigger for divorce amongst the over 60s is when the children have grown up and flown the nest. They realise that many of the reasons they remained married are no longer there and that they may have grown apart from one another. Whereas previously they may have been concerned about the effects of the divorce on the children and they stayed together for the children’s sake, these issues no longer apply when the brood has flown the nest.
Another reason why there has been an increase of divorce amongst the over 60s, may be that divorce no longer carries the social stigma it once did and it is now easier than ever to get divorce. Women in particular have gained a new level of independence which they may not have had when they were first married. Incidentally, it is usually women who instigate the divorce and unlike men are not content to continue with married life the way it is. With people living 30 years or more beyond 60 it is not unusual for couples to want to start a new life after divorce.
Whilst the party who instigates divorce may be yearning for a new start in life the other party may be distraught at the thought of their marriage ending in the twilight of their years.
Silver separators are cash rich as many will have either paid off their mortgage and will be receiving a pension. They may not have issues such as housing and maintenance for the children. However, as they may have more money to spend this has its added risks too, with more to lose.
Many silver separators will have paid off the entire mortgage or a significant amount by the time they reach they retire While that may mean more equity to divide between themselves, it doesn’t bode well if there isn’t enough for both couples to be re-housed according to their needs. It may become increasingly difficult for them to obtain a mortgage at their age even if they put the entire amount as a deposit. They may have to settle for a smaller property or worse still use the money on rental accommodation.
One of the biggest assets amongst silver separators will be the pension. There may be a situation where one of the parties to the couple worked all their life and acquired a healthy pension and the other party may have stayed at home. It will be particularly important for the other party to make a claim to a share of that pension to ensure that they are maintained for the rest of their life.
There may be additional issues for silver separators regarding maintenance especially if one of the parties has never worked their entire life. They are unlikely to be able to secure a job and financially maintain themselves and acquiring spousal maintenance will be very important for them.
One of the things for silver separators to remember is that a divorce can ruin a business, especially one that has been nurtured over the course of many years. The business may have been a fledgling at the start of the marriage and over the course of the marriage it may have flourished. In such cases it will be included as the marital assets and will have to be divided between the parties.
The increase in rates of divorce amongst the over 60s is also correlating with an increase in the over 60s or silver separators remarrying. However, having gone through the pains of divorce they are unwilling to go through the same again and are turning to prenuptial agreements. Since the Radmacher and Granatino case in 2010, prenuptial agreements are increasingly being used by newlyweds to ensure that their assets are sufficiently protected in case the marriage fails.
Whether you are a silver separator or not, it is always important to get the right legal advice at the start of proceedings to ensure that you get the best settlement from your divorce.
If you are thinking of commencing divorce proceedings or wish to enter into a prenuptial agreement or would like further information and advice on doing so, please contact Saracens Solicitors on 0207 725 7115.
photo credit: s_falkow
By Huma Mohyuddin
Family Law Department