Divorce in Later Life

Divorce image for Gard & Co. Solicitors in Plymouth Divorce webpage

In contrast to the decline in the overall number of divorces in the UK over the past few years there has been an increase in divorce rates for those aged over 50.

Why has there been an increase?

A number of reasons have been put forward to account for this upward trend, the most obvious being that there are simply more 50+ people in the population.  On top of this, people are living longer and are financially more secure, so can see a potential for a long period of happiness after divorce.

Indeed, a recent survey by Nationwide Mortgages revealed that more than half of people divorcing over the age of 50 felt happier after the divorce.  Many take up new interests and hobbies, some travel and others make new, or reignite old, friendships.

One of the major complications for divorcing couples is to agree arrangements for children.  However, many 50+ couples find themselves as empty nesters, the children having already taken wing.  This, in combination with the fact that divorce no longer has the social stigma that it once did, has helped to reduce the barriers to divorce for older couples.

What are the consequences?

Whilst the trend of increasing divorces for the over 50’s continues, it should be pointed out that there do remain some potential complications and challenges to be faced by older divorcees.


The Nationwide survey revealed that more than half of divorcees over 50 felt that they were financially worse off after their divorce with one third of women and a quarter of men struggling financially.  This is not unusual following divorce but older people can find it harder to find or increase their paid work to overcome the financial set back.  The person who has been the homemaker can find this particularly difficult, especially if they have spent a long time out of the work environment.

Older couples tend to have had longer to build up their finances and trying to agree a division of those finances on divorce can sometimes be easier due to the level of the assets accrued.  In contrast it can also prove to be more difficult, especially when the family home and pensions constitute the most significant assets, which had been planned as a joint retirement pot.  Many divorces necessitate the sale of the family home and other major assets so that an amicable and fair split can be made.  This often leads to downsizing. Some may have to move into rented accommodation due to difficulties in securing a mortgage but advice and assistance can be sought to work through those issues. It is quite usual to have a fear of the unknown but the right advice and guidance can ease the worry.

Loneliness and health problems

Older divorcees can sometimes find it much harder to forge new relationships and so loneliness can be a problem.  As people get older they also tend to experience a greater range of health problems some of which are induced by and linked to the stress of divorce.  Other health issues, such as reduced mobility and long term illness, have knock on effects, like an inability to work or sustain the previous level of employment.  Health can also dictate housing needs resulting in one party requiring a greater share of the assets to purchase suitable property.

Family relations

The children of the marriage may also be a consideration.  Whilst most may have flown the nest they are still likely to be affected by their parents’ divorce and in reality many adult children are often still reliant on their parents for some time in to adulthood.  If either divorcee has a new partner they may react to them in a hostile manner.  They may take sides and apportion blame.  They may also be concerned about their inheritance, especially if any new partners have children of their own.  This will need to be handled with tact and diplomacy.

Pre-Nuptial Agreements

These Agreements are becoming more popular, particularly when older couples have already been through a divorce and are intending to remarry. Older couples tend to have built up more in the way of assets, such as property, pensions and investment portfolios, which they are anxious to protect or “ring fence” in the event a subsequent marriage fails or ends in divorce.  Pre-nups are not legally binding upon courts in England and Wales but they are regarded as persuasive and one of the factors which a court will take into account when deciding on how the matrimonial finances should be divided.

How our family solicitors can help

Here at Gard & Co our specialist family lawyers recognise that whilst divorce in later life can be extremely positive and lead to greater happiness, the process needs to be handled with tact and diplomacy to safeguard family relations, health and finances.  It is not always a simple and straightforward process and that is where experience and specialist expertise can help.  We can negotiate on your behalf, obtaining court orders where necessary to deal with matters such as pension sharing or offsetting pensions against other assets, like the family home. We can also advise on way to safeguard your assets in the future should you decide to cohabit with a new partner or remarry.

For older divorcees existing wills would need to be amended and any powers of attorney altered to take account of the new circumstances. Setting up a Trust can also be an efficient means of providing for wider family both in your lifetime and on death. Making a new Will and receiving advice on inheritance tax and estate planning will be essential for most people after divorce.

Changes at any time of life can be daunting, let us take the worry out of things for you.  We are family law experts.  This is what we do, day in-day out.  We know the procedures and the negotiation techniques.  We get to know our clients and their individual needs.  We will get the job done.

Cost is naturally always a consideration. Because we are efficient and effective we will cost you less.  We also offer a wide range of flexible payment options so that you don’t have to worry about paying the whole bill at the end of your case.  We can discuss your options at your free first meeting.

We will endeavour to arrange a first consultation within 24 hours of you first contacting us.  This consultation will give you the opportunity to:

  • tell us about your situation
  • get to know us
  • find out what we can do for you and the likely costs


For further advice or to arrange your free initial consultation please contact Rachel, Amanda, Kathryn or Jonathon on Plymouth 01752 668246 or send an email by clicking here.

Rachel Shoheth
Amanda Lyons
Kathryn Akintunde
Jonathon Yates