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Planning Retirement Online

Divorce over 50

Don’t turn a Divorce Drama into a Saga……
Divorce for the over-50s

by Judith Ball, Family Law Specialist

If current divorce rates continue around 45 per cent of marriages will end in divorce with the over-50s increasingly forming a large number of those deciding to separate. Last year in England and Wales just over 54,000 over-50s divorced.

In a phenomenon known as ‘Saga divorce’ it is thought that key life changes trigger a re-assessment of future expectations and plans and these can often be the wish to go it alone.

We are increasingly being consulted by older people seeking an independent life. Children have grown up but sometimes a couple has grown apart. Staying together for the sake of the children is now no longer the priority.

There are a number of important legal issues that can arise in divorce for those in this age range and expert legal advice is crucial. The length of the marriage and the ages of the parties are highly relevant in the approach to the division of the matrimonial assets.

Judges currently consider a 20 year marriage ‘a long marriage’ during which the couple may have paid off their mortgage and be looking forward to retirement on a pension fund built up during their time together. All the assets of the marriage fall for consideration and orders can be made for cash payments, transfers or sale of property or other assets, maintenance and pension sharing orders.

In a long marriage a pension fund is often an important and valuable asset that can be shared on divorce. Pension sharing will not be appropriate in all cases and, where it is an option, the fund will not always be divided equally. This is a complex area and specialist advice will almost always be necessary.

There are a number of ways that a divorcing couple might try to resolve the financial issues between them and there are several alternatives to court hearings. The collaborative law process is increasingly used enabling a couple to divorce in a civilised way whilst each being assisted by their solicitor. Mediation can sometimes help couples reach agreement on key issues.

It is important to recognise that there may be cultural issues to consider in longer more traditional marriages. Frequently the wife may have been involved in raising the family with the husband having run and managed the family finances – in these cases women can feel disadvantaged and need the careful guiding hand of a specialist family solicitor.

Recognising that it is steep learning curve for both parties and that adjustment will present challenges is necessary if a senior couple are to divorce with dignity” says Judith. In a long marriage the couple may have been together all their adult lives and the loss of a partner through divorce is like bereavement. Social lives and friendships cemented over many years will need to be thought about and the couple’s grown-up children will need careful consideration.

Dealing with grown-up children is as important a consideration as younger children” says Judith. As Resolution lawyers we are committed to solutions that take into account the needs of the family as a whole. An outcome that enables both parties to have a good on-going relationship with their grown-up children (and possibly grand-children) is essential for the sake and happiness of the whole family.

Judith Ball is a Family Law specialist and a partner at Barlow Robbins LLP.


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