At a time when average divorce rates across Scotland are waning, divorce among the over 60s is on the rise. In fact, according to the Scottish Government’s most recent statistics for divorces and dissolutions covering the period between 2014 and 2015, there has been a 20% increase in over 60s divorces between 2010 and 2015. This equates to an additional 255 divorces among this age group over this time period.
This comes at a time when the average rate of divorce across all age groups is on the decline. Only 76,769 civil law cases were initiated across the Court of Session and sheriff courts in Scotland between 2014-15, the lowest since records began and 42% lower than 2008-2009.
According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, the ‘silver splitters’ trend is not unique to Scotland. In fact, since the early 1990s, there has been a 73% rise in divorce rates among the over 60s across England and Wales, suggesting this is a UK wide phenomenon.
Consensus Collaboration Scotland (CCS), a network of lawyers, family consultants and financial experts that specialise in out of court divorce settlements, point to a combination of factors causing a rise in
divorce among older couples, from rising life expectancy to a decline in the stigma of divorce.
Lucy Metcalf, a member of CCS and Director of Lindsays, an Edinburgh based Estate Agent and Solicitors, comments: “I think the obvious reason is an increase in life expectancy - people often talk about a second life after retirement, a time to re-evaluate and think about the future. Perhaps staying in an unhappy marriage is too much to bear for another 20 or 30 years, particularly after the children have flown the nest. There is also far less social pressure for couples of all ages to stay married. Divorce is now an accepted part of life and is no longer the stigma that it was.”
Perhaps surprisingly, the Scottish Government’s research also suggests that the later in life the divorce takes place, the man is more likely to instigate the split. In fact, by the time couples reach their 60s, more than 40% more men are asking for a divorce compared to women, whilst younger couples in their 20s and 30s, it is more, likely to be the female partner that takes the plunge. Taina Moran, Chartered Financial Planner, Wealth Manager and member of CCS explains:
“I think this is a reflection of the times. Younger women are far more independent these days both financially and with regards to their careers. Older couples are still affected by past gender stereotypes, where the man tends to have more financial control, perhaps has a more advanced career and the woman is sometimes dependent on that. In this instance, it is understandably harder for women to divorce because they have more to lose. They are also more likely to try and stick it out and find a resolution, whereas the man is proactive and is looking for a quick solution.”
Getting divorced older seems to be a growing trend but it comes with a health warning. A recent study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour in the United States, analysed data from nearly 9,000 adults nationwide, aged 51 to 61. The research finds those who had been divorced orwidowed suffered 20 percent more chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer, than individuals who were currently married.
Interestingly, health is also a factor that may be contributing to divorce. Taina continues: “The truth is, when we get older the chances of illness and disease rise and this itself can add pressure to a marriage. We have an example of a gentleman in his late seventies suffering from Huntington’s disease. His wife understandably found it very challenging to cope and it was agreed that a split was better for both parties. Having said this, it’s also the case that illness can bring people together, so it really depends on the circumstances.”
Divorce can also be more complex and costly for older couples, who may have assets spread over a number of areas and complex financial ties to unpick. Lucy Metcalf explains. “By the time couples reach their 60s, their financial situations are often quite complex and so divorce takes a lot of careful planning and consideration. This is why we’re seeing a greater proportion of older couples choosing a collaborative approach to divorce, rather than going through the courts. Collaborative divorces tend to be more cost effective and provide facilities for independent financial advice to help unravel complex financial ties.
“Another spin off of older divorces is we are seeing a rise in pre-nuptials and Co-habitation agreements among older people. I think couples who have already been through a tricky divorce accept the need
to sort out their financial affairs before entering another long term relationship. It’s less of a taboo later on.”
If you are looking to avoid a court divorce, speak to one of our local professionals for advice on your options before you get started.