Divorce for Over 60s: All you need to know

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Divorce rates for the over 60s have almost doubled over the past 20 years and the rate has increased at an even higher rate for men than women.

Divorce rates for the over 60s have almost doubled over the past 20 years and the rate has increased at an even higher rate for men than women.

This trend is clearly linked to changes in society in which divorce is generally no longer considered to be a stigma, women have more financial independence, life expectancies are increasing and retirement periods longer. Together, this combination is fuelling the rising numbers of divorcees in their 50s to 80s.

Although divorce is never easy, it is especially important for older people to seek advice at an early stage from specialist lawyers, pension experts and independent financial advisers (IFAs) to minimise both the emotional and financial damage.

How might this affect adult children?

Many people wrongly assume that it is best to wait until their children have left home. But the emotional impact on adult children is likely to be as great - or even greater – than the impact on a younger child.

Adult children are often dragged into the divorce process and used as a confidant of one or both their parents. This can lead to further friction within the family and be very damaging. They may also be worried about their own security in older age. Could their inheritance go to a new family? Can they take on the additional responsibility for their adult parents as they adjust to their new life after separation?

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Do be mindful of the needs and concerns of your adult children just as you would if they were younger - and keep any acrimony between you and your spouse to a minimum regardless of your children’s age.

Sorting out financial provision

Typically, one party will feel more financially vulnerable than the other, particularly if their spouse has dealt with all the family finances throughout their marriage. They may have little or no idea of their income, capital or future financial requirements. They may need extra time to come to terms with what has happened and get up to speed with financial matters.

There can be a huge emotional attachment to the family home especially if the children were brought up in it. Although it often makes financial sense to sell the house to realise capital, this can be a very difficult and upsetting matter that shatters the dream of a home for adult children to visit with grandchildren.

Pensions are often the largest or second largest family asset. Older people are more likely to have valuable final salary pension schemes that need specialist advice from a solicitor and IFA. A decision to divide the pensions 50:50 rarely leads to an equality of income.

The other difficulty facing older people is that there is less time to financially recover from a divorce. If already retired, the financial pot cannot be increased. It may be impossible for either party to obtain a mortgage. A spouse who has been out of the workplace for a long period of time may also find it very difficult to pick up their career. Financial support and how this can be given must be considered.

With all this is mind, it is important to deal with matters on an amicable basis, perhaps through mediation or collaboration and to put the right advisory team in place from the start.

For legal advice on divorce or any other relationship breakdown, please contact either Veronica Gilmour on 01483 411481 or veronica.gilmour@penningtons.co.uk or Laura Naser on 01483 411434 or laura.naser@penningtons.co.uk in the Guildford office of Penningtons Manches or visit our website at www.penningtons.co.uk

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