Silver surfers are divorcing more often

Divorce is not something that only happens to people in their 40s or 50s. Some of the most recent statistics show that divorce rates among the 65+ age group are climbing – in direct contrast to the drop in the overall divorce rate. Factors affecting divorce rates can be anything, from income and financial independence through to social connection. For retirees looking at a divorce there are some additional concerns to consider.

What do the statistics tell us?

Numbers from the Office for National Statistics show that, between 2005 and 2015, the number of women over 65 getting a divorce rose by 20%. For men the increase was 8%. A number of reasons have been identified for this increase in silver surfer divorces, including:

  • There has been a reduction in the stigma that used to be attached to divorce and being a divorcee.

  • Larger numbers of women have been working in recent decades resulting in higher levels of financial independence.

  • Many people of both sexes are now working beyond the age of 65 and so are able to support themselves alone, without a spouse, into retirement.

  • The rise in internet dating has made new, happier relationships a distinct possibility

  • More over 65s today feel more economically and socially connected and willing to take the chance of moving on and getting out there

Divorcing for the over 65s

  1. Finances may be more difficult to separate. Older couples have been living together longer and may have more shared accounts and investments. Plus, traditional family structures in older generations may have meant one partner generated most of the income/earned most of the pension. These scenarios are not impossible to deal with but can make matters more complicated. The starting point is to make a concise, clear list of all financial assets, who currently owns what, where ownership is shared and how these would, ideally, be divided up on divorce.

  2. Wills should be swiftly rewritten. After an over 65 divorce, it’s important to ensure that the current Will reflects individual wishes in terms of who should benefit from assets post-divorce. If there are any life insurance policies beneficiary details should be updated.

  3. Pensions are a critical issue. Pension pots can be substantial for the over 65s and dealing with the splitting of pensions will have a big impact on outcomes. Options include a Pension Sharing Order, which will mean that both people will receive the same income from pensions accrued by both husband and wife. Where a Pension Sharing Order is made, there is the option for either party to transfer their share of the pension to another scheme or to become a member of the scheme that the pension is currently held with. A couple can also choose to offset, which means that one partner will take a greater share of pension rights and the other a larger share of other assets in return.

  4. Property assets must be handled carefully. Over the age of 65 it’s more difficult to obtain a mortgage to buy somewhere new. As a result, the sale of a jointly owned property may need to fully fund the purchase of two new properties, one for each partner, on divorce.

  5. Inheritance tax consequences. Although allowances remain the same, a divorce means that a couple loses the right to transfer assets between them free of inheritance tax, which is something to bear in mind.

Divorcing over the age of 65 can be simple and straightforward as long as the right steps are taken. It’s never too late to lay the foundations for a new life.