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Silver Separation Figures ‘Reflect Changing Attitudes To Marriage Among Over-60s’

Family Law Expert Reacts To New ONS Figures


By Rob Dixon

New figures which show an increasing number of couples aged 60 or over are seeking to divorce are a strong indication that the trend of so-called ‘silver separations’ looks set to continue over the coming years, according to a family law specialist.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of over-60s filing for divorce is continuing to rise despite an overall fall in divorces being seen in the past couple of decades.

The new figures from the research body revealed that the average length of marriage for men aged 60 or over who divorced in 2011 was 27.4 years, which compared to an average of 31.9 years for women of the same age.

ONS stated that the number of silver separations is at its second highest level on record, with the highest recorded in 1971 following the introduction of the Divorce Reform Act.

Louise Halford, a Partner and family law specialist at Irwin Mitchell’s Manchester office, said the new figures highlighted how the trend which has developed over recent years shows no signs of slowing just yet.

She outlined: "This increase is not surprising considering trends seen across the past few years and a number of factors can be linked to this issue. Ultimately though, the increase simply reflects that lifestyles have transformed since 20 or 30 years ago.

“It is unfortunate but simply not uncommon in modern times to see couples drift apart as a result of ‘empty nest syndrome’, when their children head off to university or move out of the family home. This can have a major impact on the dynamic between a couple and can bring issues to the fore which may have been hidden by their continued responsibilities to their offspring.

“Of course, another issue is that people are also living healthier, longer lives and simply wish to pursue other relationships. In the past, people may have felt compelled to stay together in old age. They may have felt financially constrained.  However, these days if people are in an unhappy relationship at 60, they may consider carefully whether they want to spend another 25 years or more living with that person and if not, what the financial consequences of that separation may mean for them.

Louise added: “"It is of course important that anyone looking to separate from a partner does seek advice and this is particularly vital in this age group. For example, they may need specialist help in relation to pensions - which are often the most valuable assets in such cases. The housing needs of both parties will have to be met from their existing resources as mortgages are not easily available the older one gets”

“Through our work we have seen how no two relationships are the same and the key factor in ensuring that matters can be resolved as smoothly as possible is to get legal support at the earliest opportunity.

“We would urge people to remember that in modern times divorce does not just equal court battles, as there are other out-of-court approaches such as mediation and collaborative law which could prove less costly and time-consuming for couples.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in relation to Divorce and Relationship Breakdown