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Grey Divorce: What You Need to Know About Divorcing Later in Life

It’s possible for a marriage to come to an end at any point in your life. This is true whether you’re in your twenties or sixties. 

However, if you are considering divorce and you fall in the latter age bracket, you are undergoing what’s classed as a “grey divorce.”  

What is grey divorce?

The term “grey divorce” refers to the increasing trend of couples aged 50 and older choosing to end their marriages. This term was coined in America in 2004 and refers to the number of older couples who are parting ways. In fact, while the term dates to the early 2000s, it’s an ongoing trend in America today. 

Here in the UK, we’re seeing a similar pattern. In the decade from 2004 when ‘grey divorce’ was first introduced to 2014, divorce rates among older people rose significantly. 

The factors

Divorce rates among older adults are rising significantly. Several factors may contribute to this: 

  • Empty nest syndrome: As children grow up and leave home, couples often find themselves facing an empty house and may realize that they have grown apart over the years. Without the daily responsibilities of parenting, underlying issues in the marriage may come to the forefront.
  • Financial concerns: Some couples might face financial strains due to retirement planning, medical expenses, or differences in spending habits. In some cases, one partner may have accumulated debt or mismanaged finances, leading to significant strain on the relationship.
  • Changing priorities: As people age, their interests can change. What may have worked for a couple in their younger years might no longer be fulfilling. Some individuals seek personal fulfillment and happiness outside the confines of a long-term marriage, leading them to pursue a fresh start later in life.

Unique challenges

Whatever your age and no matter your life stage, divorce takes its toll on your emotions. It can affect your mental well-being and leave you feeling drained. This is because of the upheaval involved, even in the most straightforward of separations. 

However, grey divorce presents challenges that differ from those encountered by younger couples. Financial complexities are often the biggest issue. The division of assets collected over decades can be particularly challenging. Properties, investments, pensions, and retirement accounts must be divided. Unlike younger couples, older individuals have less time to recover financially from this part of the divorce process, making the equitable division of assets even more critical.

Retirement planning is another concern. You might find that divorce drastically alters your retirement plans. You might have to make adjustments to your lifestyle expectations. It may require splitting retirement savings, which can have long-term financial implications for both of you. 

Then there’s the emotional impact of grey divorce. Loneliness and isolation are common issues, especially when long-term social circles and family dynamics are disrupted. Adjusting to a new life can be daunting, as many older individuals have spent decades in a partnership that has defined their daily routines and who they are.

Legal considerations

There are some key legal considerations to make. The division of property in England and Wales is based on principles of fairness. This takes into account factors such as the length of your marriage, the contributions you’ve both made and your future financial needs. This can be a complex process, especially when dealing with assets gathered over a long marriage. 

Spousal support, or maintenance, is another critical aspect. Courts may award maintenance to ensure that neither party faces financial hardship post-divorce. The amount and duration of spousal support can vary, depending on factors such as the length of the marriage and the financial disparity between you both.

Retirement accounts, including pensions, often require specific attention. Pension sharing orders or pension attachment orders may be necessary to ensure an equitable distribution of your retirement funds. 

Given the complexity of these financial arrangements, consulting with a knowledgeable family law solicitor is essential to navigate the intricacies of grey divorce. It’s possible to do this in person or to pursue an online divorce.

However, no matter how you want to approach your divorce, remember to be kind to yourself. You’ve been married for a long time, and you will need to give yourself some time to adjust to this new phase.