The divorce rate among the over-60s is continuing to rise, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This is in contrast to the overall divorce figures which are falling.
The divorce rate for older people was relatively stable in the 1980s but then started to rise in the early 1990s. ONS figures show that 9,500 men over 60 were granted a divorce in 2011, the latest year for which figures are available. That was a rise of 73% compared with 1991.
Husbands tend to be older than their wives but the trend is similar for women. A total of 5,800 women over 60 divorced in 2011 compared with 3,200 in 1991.
There are thought to be a number of likely reasons for the increase. People are living longer, more active lives. Many couples find they have grown apart by the time they get to their sixties and their children have left home.
ONS also points out that women in their 60s are now more likely to be working than they were in the past. Many have built up their own pensions making them less financially dependent on their husbands.
It’s always sad to see a marriage come to an end but it seems particularly so when a couple have been together for 30 or 40 years.
Older people face the same general issues that confront all couples involved in a divorce, although some problems will be more relevant than others.
Their children have probably grown up and flown the nest so there should be no concerns about contact arrangements etc. On the other hand, they may have to pay extra attention to issues such as inheritance and tax planning.
It’s likely that before the divorce, the couple’s wealth, including the house, was owned jointly by both partners. When one died, the estate would pass to the other without any inheritance tax issues.
Once they divorce, however, that automatic exemption no longer applies and so they may have to look closely at arrangements to protect their estate as much as possible.
Wills are an important issue for all divorcing couples but especially so for the elderly. If they already have a will in place, it’s likely that they will have left all or most of their estate to their partner. Do they still want that to happen once they divorce? Who do they want to benefit if not their former spouse?
They will need to draw up a new will to reflect their new circumstances.
The couple will also have to reach a financial settlement. Generally speaking, assets will have to be divided equally.
All the couple’s assets, including pensions, are taken into account when assessing the matrimonial pot. This can sometimes be complicated, especially when it involves pensions that may not become active until a few years down the line. Nevertheless, everything has to be calculated and taken into consideration before arriving at a final settlement.
As more of the baby boomer generation enter their 60s, it’s likely that the divorce rate for this age group will continue to rise, especially as the social stigma of separation has diminished in recent years.
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