With Divorce and Marriage rates up for the over-65s, we investigate the reasons why


The last time we brought you an article on marriage law, we were discussing the fact that, overall, recent divorce statistics show that the number of divorces in the UK have plummeted by over a third since the divorce rate peak of 2003. We talked about various contributing factors for this find, such as the shift in social trends and the rise of cohabiting couples who choose to stray away from the bonds of marriage – especially when it involves significant financial implications.

Today, however, we’d like to focus on a different side to the statistics which relates to the over-65 category. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), their overall figures might have shown a general drop in divorce rates, but it also showed the over-65 sector to have the highest number of splits, as well as marriages. In today’s blog post, we’ll be discussing these “silver splitters”, and consider the reasons why they’re at the top of the list for divorcees. We’ll then give you a few initial steps to take if you feel your relationship might be coming to an end…

What’s the story?

In July, the ONS released new findings relating to their recent report on divorce rates across the UK. While it’s true that both marriage and divorce overall are in decline, both of these are up when you look specifically at the over-65 category. The major findings to come out this report were as follows:

  • The number of brides and grooms aged 65 and over went up by 46% over a decade (from 7,468 in 2004 to 10,937 in 2014)
  • At the same time, there are distinct signs of an ageing population, as the number of people aged 65 and over experienced a 20% increase in the same period
  • Of the two groups, men tend to marry younger women, with 56% of men aged 65 and over who tied the knot in 2014 marrying a woman under 65. By contrast, only 22% of women aged 65 and over married a man under 65
  • Almost all (92%) of the brides and grooms aged 65 and over in 2014 were divorcees, widows or widowers
  • Although there has been a 28% fall in the number of divorces between 2005 and 2015, in the same period, the number of divorcing men aged 65+ went up by 23%, while for women aged 65+ it increased by 38%.

What’s the reason for the sudden surge?

That’s a lot of facts and figures to take in, but put simply, the findings show that while marriage in this category is up by almost half, the number of people aged 65 and over who are divorcing has also increased by almost a quarter for men and well over a third for women.

The question is, why is this happening now? Experts have been quick to share their opinions in this field, and they feel that the ageing population plays a significant part in this. According to the statistics, in 2004, an average 65-year-old man could expect to live for a further 17 years, while a woman could live for a further 20 years. Now in 2017, this figure has increased to 19 years for a man and almost 22 years for a woman.

Where divorce is concerned, if people are living longer, they will be less inclined to spend many more unhappy years with their partner, so there’s an incentive to move on and find happiness with someone else. Plus, there are far more people in the over 65 sector than ever before who are working beyond the average ages of retirement, so it’s fair to assume that these individuals who divorce will be able to take care of themselves financially – living alone doesn’t seem like so scary a prospect.

In terms of marriage, older people are more well-connected than they have ever been before; it’s highly likely that the internet and the invention of dating websites (especially those aimed specifically at older generations) have meant that those over the age of 65 have been able to make new connections and relationships with people that they would otherwise never have met.

Of course, there will always be the practical experts that point the finger in the face of financial reasoning. For example, there were substantial changes made to the rules surrounding inheritance tax in October 2007. This allowed married couples and those in civil partnerships to transfer their tax-free allowances between each other for the first time, and this is another perfectly plausible reason, as practical-thinking couples might want to plan ahead.

What advice would you give for silver splitters?

While no-one relishes the thought of handling the divorce process or the emotional and financial pain involved, there are some very important pieces of information to consider if you’re thinking of initiating proceedings with your spouse.

Firstly, you should always contact your legal advisor to find out what position you would be in if you were to start proceedings, and also, the kind of actions you should take immediately to secure your own assets. Following that first conversation addressing the breakdown of a marriage and the desire for a divorce, sometimes the spouse can react badly and try to damage the assets of the person asking for the split. This is a perfectly understandable emotional reaction to the upset of the situation, so it’s worth preparing for in case you find yourself in that position.

Next, you should go over your assets clearly – make a list of every joint account, every stock and share, every property and priceless painting in your possession and discuss this with your legal advisor. Then, make that first move with your spouse – it’s important to figure out as soon as possible which category you fall into for divorce, as this can only be granted under one of the following circumstances:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • 2 years’ separation with consent
  • 5 years’ separation where no consent is required

We understand what a distressing time it is for any couple going through a divorce, which is why our experienced team is always on hand. They can give you the right advice to guide you through the process, and help you to both reach a fair result for all concerned. If you’d like to discuss your own situation, you can call us on 020 7381 8111, or email us at law@hyltonpotts.com.

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