Rising numbers of divorces involving the over-60s can be among the most acrimonious, warn family solicitors Coles Miller.
Dorset-based Coles Miller has extensive experience of what the media has dubbed “silver splitter” divorces because of the county’s older-than-average population.
New data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) cites increasing numbers of couples aged over 60 splitting up - despite a fall in divorces overall.
Empty nests, greater financial independence among women and less stigma about divorce are among the reasons being quoted for the rise in over-60s marriage break-ups.
Are older couples getting divorces more likely to opt for mediation? Does their extra life experience make the break-up more amenable?
Sadly not - if anything the opposite is more likely to be true, warn Coles Miller’s family law solicitors.
Coles Miller Partner Emma Hamilton Cole, who leads the family law team, said: “We are seeing more people in their 60s getting divorced now.
“They are re-evaluating their lives. They are maybe not as happy as they thought they were once the children have moved out and they see life-changing events such as retirement on the horizon.
“Some of the divorces involving older couples can be very difficult because there is much more water under the bridge,” she added.
Children could still make a divorce more complex - even though they had left home.
“Children do still sometimes become involved, even though they are in their 30s and 40s. Maybe they have been through break-ups as well. Their involvement can be supportive but can sometimes create additional issues.”
Retired couples getting divorced were also more likely to argue over division of property because they each had decades of financial and emotional capital tied up in the family home, she added.
“Older people are looking at a financial situation which is finite. They will not have the opportunity to accumulate money again.
“Both of them may want to continuing living in the family home but clearly both of them can’t live there so some kind of solution has to be found,” she added.
That could lead to protracted and “counterproductive” arguments over money: “The parties can be entrenched rather than flexible and the process then becomes drawn out and more costly.
“Mediation is most appropriate for these situations where the couple are open to it as an option because it is cheaper and quicker than a court process,” she added.
Also, people who remarried in later years after being widowed or divorced were more likely to want prenuptial agreements in order to provide for their own families and grandchildren.
The ONS statistics show there were 118,000 divorces in 2011 - of these 9,500 were granted to men aged over 60 (73 per cent up on 1991).
ONS data points to 2.3 married men in 1,000 aged over 60 getting divorced in 2011, compared with 1.6/1,000 in 1991.
That compares with 1.6 divorces per 1,000 married women aged over 60 in 2011 and 1.2 in 1991.
Coles Miller has an expert team of divorce solicitors based in Bournemouth and Poole. They are members of Resolution (formerly the Solicitors Family Law Association) and the Law Society’s Family Law Panel.
For further information about family law, please contact Coles Miller Solicitors Partner Emma Hamilton Cole, 01202 694891.