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Why are ‘silver splitters’ on the rise?

By Amanda Rimmer, partner and divorce law expert at the national law firm, Stephensons.

The rate of divorce among the other 65s is increasing − and the Office of National Statistics (ONS) thinks that online dating could be behind it.

In the ten years up to 2015, ONS figures show that the number of pensioners divorcing increased by over 600 to 8,697.

Their recent report also highlighted a corresponding rise in internet use − ‘silver surfers’ − speculating that perhaps older people were ‘catching up with younger people in their use of the internet − and perhaps trying out online dating’.

But another of the major factors in the rise of ‘silver splitters’ must be retirement. A major life change such as this can expose all sorts of issues for older people. With more time on their hands and having to adjust to new circumstances, cracks in a relationship can surface.

Add to that, people living longer and healthier lives and marrying and having children later. People can be 60 when their kids leave home and then they look at life afresh.

But there are a lot of downsides to splitting up later in life. It is a major change to become single after some 30 or 40 years of marriage, and there are legal, social and financial considerations to bear in mind.

For one, it is much cheaper for two people to live together than to live separately. It’s not just that a couple only needs one residence when married and two when divorced, everyday spending is proportionally lower for a couple.

There’s also the problem of dividing assets. Generally speaking, older people have more assets, in the form of savings, properties and other high-value items and many of these items may also have considerable emotional significance for the parties.

But perhaps the most complex issue is regarding pension plans, particularly as there are so many variables to consider. The pension pot may have been formed by one individual entirely, the couple may have contributed equal amounts or perhaps somewhere in between.

Whatever the arrangements, any pension fund was most likely intended to form the basis of a retirement for a couple living together, which would be cheaper than the same couple separated.

It can be more likely that silver divorcees will agree to sell the family home. A mortgage is likely be paid off at this point in life, but the equity of one home doesn’t necessarily allow the couple enough to purchase two properties. Older divorcees also need to consider that it is more challenging to get a mortgage as you get older, so the option to borrow extra funds may not be available.

But the potential problems aren’t simply monetary. Marriage late in life offers not just companionship but possibly someone to look after you as you age. A newly single person entering old age will now have to consider their care arrangements more closely.

This may involve moving nearer to adult children, hiring home nurses or moving to a care home. This can be a very expensive consideration.

Silver divorcees should seriously consider making a will as that could prevent any problems arising in the future should there be a prospect of nursing home fees arising in the future. It will also prevent any children having to deal with any issues that might occur, if you do not.

But despite this doom and gloom, divorcing at a later stage in life can be more straightforward as there will probably be no child arrangements or child maintenance to decide on and couples will probably be more financially stable.

Despite the downsides, many take the change for a fresh, a new start and a real prospect of happiness.

That’s why the number of brides and grooms aged 65 has increased by nearly half in a decade up to 2014. And there has also been as rise in older people living with their new partners, just like in the rest of society.

So it is clear that, whatever the downsides of divorce, for many silver splitters it is worth striking out alone.


©2008 Amra Media Solutions Ltd