Divorce in later life - What you need to know

Divorce can happen at any time in life. I have seen couples contact me who were married a few weeks ago, the worst decision they have ever made and now want a divorce. Not unusually, they were together a few years before getting married and after getting married, want to be divorced. Perhaps they got married in the hope it would relight the relationship. I have also have also been contacted by clients in their 80s who want to get divorced. This can be for a multitude of reasons and no matter your age there is no legal impediment to getting divorced. 

"My husband has dementia and I had lost any feeling for him before this condition and I certainly don’t want to spend the rest of my life caring for him."

Divorce can happen at any age. Everything is disposable in the current climate. A TV breaks, we don’t get it fixed, we buy a new one. This is how we live, and so it is with relationships. Things become difficult and we find a new partner. Age is no barrier to this. There is an old joke about a couple in their late 90s who go to see their lawyer and say they want to divorce. The lawyer asks why they waited so long before seeking a divorce. They answer, we didn’t want to upset or cause disruption with our children so we waited until they were all dead before seeking a divorce! 

Often couples wait until their children are a certain age before divorcing or separating but more and more couples are deciding to separate well into retirement. 

Generally, the longer you are married the more interlinked your finances become and accordingly the more complex it can become seeking to separate them and move forward to obtain a divorce. Over time properties are bought and sold, pensions rise and move from fund to fund and are often encased. At age 55, tax free sums can be encashed. Mortgages have been redeemed with lump sums from retirement or redundancy. Children are often gifted money to buy their first house. Savings and ISAs are often built up in one of the party’s sole names. State pensions are being received and perhaps only one party has a private work pension.

The longer parties are together the more difficult it can be to separate the finances. Yes, the children may have grown up and are over 16 and out of the divorce equation, but the finances that have been built up over the years may be considerable. Also, there needs to be a way out. The assets that have accrued need to be valued and the parties need to find a solution to splitting them. This may have tax consequences and may have a detrimental effect on the pension pot, but it needs to be done. 

Each party needs to find a solution that gives them financial independence which allows them to live independently without the need to support the other. This is true at any age, but especially true for an older couple that do not have the time or desire to retrain and/or find employment. They are retired and living comfortably together. A solution has to be found to allow that to happen independently. It may not be a simple solution but nonetheless, it has to be found. A well crafted separation agreement drafted by your lawyer will allow this and allow both parties to move forward independently and to eventually divorce - and who knows maybe remarry.

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