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Everything you need to know about divorcing in old age

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In this article we’re addressing the tricky topic of divorcing in your older years and what considerations there are involved.

The number of separation agreements created in the UK has increased significantly following the introduction of the no-fault divorce law in April 2022, and this includes older couples.

Although divorce isn’t typically associated with older couples, especially those over 50, figures show over the years it’s becoming increasingly common for them to separate. Divorce can be a lot more complicated for older couples given how intwined the two people’s lives can be over many years together.

In this article, we’re sharing everything you need to know about divorcing in old age.

What are the typical reasons why older people divorce?

Whatever your age, divorce is usually infinitely better than staying in an unhappy or abusive marriage. More people in their 50s and 60s are divorcing in the UK than ever before for various reasons, which include:

  • Children have left home – In some cases, a couple may choose to stay together until their children have left home and have families of their own to concentrate on in order to have minimal impact on the family.
  • Grown apart – As people grow older, their priorities and interests will often change and some couples will find that they are simply no longer compatible, which can cause distance and sometimes friction for many couples.
  • Financial disagreements – While disagreements about finances are usually considered to be the domain of younger couples, these can also very much cause rifts among older spouses.
  • Infidelity – For older people, more time and cash can often lead to temptation when it comes to committing adultery.

Considerations for couples over 50 divorcing

If you’re a couple over 50 thinking about divorcing, there are a few considerations to give to certain aspects of your life that would change, including:

Financial changes

As an older couple, there’s a good chance that your finances will be somewhat intertwined and, while this shouldn’t influence your decision to leave an unhappy marriage, there are some things that you should be aware of here, including:

  • Mortgage – If you still have a mortgage on your home, this may cause complications during the divorce; particularly if one party wishes to remain in the home.
  • Assets – You will need to look at the value of shared assets, including cash and how they will be divided. If you are unable to reach an agreement on this, you will need to enlist the help of a mediator or solicitor.
  • Tax on investments – In many cases, splitting or withdrawing assets such as investments may involve losses in terms of tax.
  • Income – You will need to be realistic about how much money you will be likely to have to live on – and whether or not this will cover your responsibilities.
Accommodation and future care

During a divorce, one or both parties will need to leave the marital home, and this can be a major upheaval. You will also need to think about your care in future years and how this will be paid for. Depending on your personal financial circumstances, you may need to pay up to £800 per week for your social care should this be required in later years.

Wills and testaments

If you or your spouse have created a Will, this will need to be reviewed in the event of a divorce, particularly if you have a mirror Will in which you are bequeathing all assets to each other. A good solicitor will be able to help you to navigate the cancellation of this Will and the creation of a new one as a single person.

Coping with the emotion

Whatever your age, a divorce can bring with it a range of powerful emotions including sadness, anger and, in some cases, these can lead to mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

On top of this, you may be faced with intrusive questions from friends and family, including those questioning the wisdom of a divorce at an advanced age, as well as strong reactions from any children involved. If you feel overwhelmed by negative emotions during your divorce, a counsellor may be able to help you to sort through these and to feel more positive about your future as a single person.

Loneliness can quickly become an issue when divorcing at an older age, particularly when you don’t have a huge network of friends and family. Depending on where you live, there may be social groups for like-minded people and these are a great way of building up a new network of friends.

Balancing happiness with practicality…

When contemplating a divorce over the age of 50, the first thing to keep in mind is the fact that there is no age limit on happiness. While well-meaning friends may advise against this course of action, you are the only person who is able to make that decision.

Having said that, it is important to make sure that you know what will be involved in terms of finance and security for your future and, you should always enlist the services of a good family law solicitor to ensure that you are getting everything that you are entitled to.

Finally, don’t forget to review and amend your Will (you’d be surprised how often this is overlooked) to make sure that your ex-spouse doesn’t automatically inherit your assets.

Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a trained legal professional. Be sure to consult a lawyer/solicitor if you’re seeking advice on divorce. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.

Photo by Al Elmes on Unsplash

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