Despite divorce in general being on the decline, a higher number of people aged 55 and above are turning their backs on marriage and opting for what is sometimes referred to as a ‘silver divorce’. The expert family team at Bray & Bray solicitors explores some of the reasons behind this phenomenon and provides advice to older divorcees.

‘Grey divorce’, silver divorce’, ‘silver splitter’ and ‘diamond divorcees’ are all common terms used to describe the increasing divorce rate in the older generation. Interestingly, divorce is falling in every major age demographic apart from those aged 55 plus. According to most recent data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), divorce rates in England and Wales are around 40 percent lower than they were when they peaked in 1993. Yet, among older people, rates are higher than ever before. There are a variety of different factors that could be contributing to this increase.

Silver divorces on the rise

The fact that we’re living longer is perhaps a key reason why so many baby boomers are choosing a later-in-life divorce. With life expectancy continuing to climb, it could be the case that people living in unhappy marriages feel there is still time to find happiness in the later stages of their lives.

Growing apart is also a common reason for marriages splitting up, and is often cited as the main reason for ending a long term relationship in the over 55s. Usually, children leave home when their parents are around this age, which can lead to ‘empty nest syndrome.’ It may be during this time that partners find they have little in common with one another anymore. This, coupled with the fact that there is now less of a stigma surrounding divorce, could be contributing towards the increased number in silver divorces.

Advice for silver divorcees

1. Dividing up assets: the family home

When dividing up assets after a long marriage, the courts generally have a starting point of a 50/50 split between the two parties. A top tip for silver divorcees, therefore, is to register your Matrimonial Home Rights with HM Land Registry. The family home is often the largest and most valuable asset a couple has; if the property is in your spouse’s name, registering your Matrimonial Home Rights is a first step to help protect you if your spouse tries to sell or remortgage.

If the family home is jointly owned as joint tenants, it is also often advised that the type of ownership be changed from ‘joint tenancy’ to ‘tenants in common’ at the Land Registry. The differences between being joint tenants and tenants in common are:

Joint tenants (sometimes called ‘beneficial joint tenants’)
    • you have equal rights to the whole property
    • the property automatically goes to the other owner if you die
    • you cannot pass on your ownership of the property in your will
Tenants in common
    • you can own different shares of the property
    • the property does not automatically go to the other owner if you die
    • you can pass on your share of the property in your will

Changing the type of ownership to ‘tenants in common’ means that, in the unexpected event of your death, your spouse will not automatically inherit your half of the property. You can pass it on to your children or other loved ones instead.

2. Preparing for unexpected circumstances

Though losing capacity can occur at any time of our lives, the older we get, the more we are at risk. As such, it is important to have a contingency plan in place when beginning divorce proceedings in case you or your spouse loses capacity before the divorce has been finalised. It could be worthwhile considering who you might like to appoint as your attorney under a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) in the event of unforeseen circumstances.

An attorney under an LPA is someone who will look out for your welfare and protect your legal rights if you lose the capacity to do so for yourself. It could be a family member, a friend or a solicitor.

3. Futureproofing your wealth

While the divorce rate is on the rise for older generations, so too is the marriage rate. Between 2004 and 2014, the number of brides and grooms aged 65 and over went up by 46%. According to the ONS, the increase in older people ending and forming new relationships is likely to be because they are living longer.

For over 55s, safeguarding your wealth against a future marital breakdown is an important step to consider if you choose to remarry, as it will help you ring-fence assets for the benefit of your children by your first marriage.

Many couples decide to create a prenup as a way to protect their assets. A prenup or prenuptial agreement is an arrangement made between two people before marrying. It establishes rights to property and support in the event of divorce or death. Though prenuptial agreements are, at present, not legally binding in the UK, a judge is likely to take the agreement into account when overseeing a divorce case.

Get in touch

At Bray & Bray, our team of family lawyers has the specialist knowledge to advise you on any queries you have about divorce and how to protect your assets.

We have three main offices in Leicestershire and one in Corby. Pop in and see us at your local office, or contact us to discuss an enquiry or case you have:

Leicester call us on 0116 254 8871

Hinckley call us on 01455 639 900

Market Harborough call us on 01858 467 181

Corby (by appointment only) call us on 01536 851050