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Finding the silver lining in ‘silver divorce’

As we are living longer and healthier lives, people are increasingly looking to realise their dreams and not settle into middle and older age with any regrets.

This has led to a surge of ‘silver divorces’, with couples aged 50 and over choosing to split a lifetime’s assets and go their separate ways. 

Divorce rates as a whole have been falling, apart from in this specific age group. With lives intertwined over many decades, the unravelling of a longstanding marriage has many complex legal and financial ramifications.

Many of our divorce clients are in middle and older age and have decided they want another chance at happiness. Often the splits are amicable but this is not always the case. Whatever feelings are involved however, there are a number of practical legal and financial matters to consider in order to protect both parties. There is often wider family to consider and it’s important to ensure provisions are made now in order to best provide for loved ones.

One in 10 people aged 65 and over in the UK is now a divorcee. Some of these have remarried, others cohabit, and many are single. Each situation has its own legal and financial issues to take into consideration.

Spousal support: Deeming how much support your spouse should receive is often a very contentious issue and more so if there is the upbringing of children to consider. 

Have you compromised aspects of a career to support your spouse’s progression and how easily can you now obtain employment? If you are caring for children, how much do you need to maintain their lifestyle? Have you equally contributed to the house and bills? These are just a small selection of the points to consider with your solicitor when deciding how much spousal support will be offered. This can also be offered in a lump sum or in regular payments on a fixed-term basis. 

There have been reports of one partner going on a ‘spending spree’ at the beginning of divorce proceedings in order to run down the matrimonial assets. When cases turn sour in this way, it is imperative to have an involved legal team. 

Property: A third of over-50s are now renting and there has been a particular spike in those aged 50-54 – the most popular age for divorcing. This figure has risen by a third in just five years. 

The family home may no longer be required and divorcing often means moving out and moving on. It may be difficult for a non-earning spouse to get a mortgage to buy a new property so they move into the rental market. Divorcing couples may both look to split the proceeds and downsize into smaller properties but if the home is in one person’s name and they wish to stay there, the other may need to move into rented accommodation. 

It may also be a case that renting gives more freedom in the shorter term while deciding on your future. 

Moving on: If one spouse moves on, whether that be by remarrying or perhaps emigrating, then what does that mean for your shared assets and spousal support? If there are still dependent children living at home then there can be a whole host of issues. If there are not, there are other points to consider such as - would you allow the family pet to live elsewhere? Once an ex-spouse moves in with someone, does spousal support end or is that only the case if the ex-spouse remarries? Conditions around such matters should considered and agreed upon early in the divorce or separation agreement as - even though everything may be amicable at the start - it may not remain that way.

Many divorcees choose to cohabit rather than remarry. What rights does this afford their new partner? New rights for cohabitants were introduced in 2006 because of the increased number of cohabiting couples. The issue of cohabiting is one we often only think about in relation to younger couples but it is increasingly common among older people and the same legal issues apply. It is important to remember that there is no such thing as a common-law marriage. 

Inheritance: With families becoming increasingly complex, it has never been more important to have a detailed and up-to-date Will. If, for instance, a father has two families then it is important that, should he want all his children to benefit from his estate that he has this recorded. Dying without a Will can lead to many years of complex legal and financial matters to unravel, causing further difficulty and heartache to loved ones. 

Divorce at any age is a difficult experience, but without proper advice it can be harder than it needs to be. If you want to discuss any aspect of your divorce or separation, contact our family law specialist Cameron Shaw today.

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