Figures released from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on 6 August 2013, show increasing divorce rates amongst the over 60s, contrasting with falling rates amongst the rest of the married population.
Research has indicated there are three main reasons for a rise in divorce rate amongst this age group.
- Overall, a loss of stigma in being divorced. In the 19 years between 1991 and 2010 there was a threefold increase in the number of divorces to 1.3 million. As it becomes more common to be divorced, there are fewer stigmas attached.
- Increase in life expectancy. In 1991 a man aged 60 could be expected to live a further 21 years. By 2010 this had increased by a further five years. Similar increases have been observed for women. Consequently, even with a small change of divorce during each year of marriage, marriages are now more likely to end in divorce and less likely to end in the death of one spouse compared to 1991.
- The increasing number of women in the labour market means that women have become more financially independent and more are likely to have built up their own pension. This means that women are now more able than ever to support themselves outside of marriage than was previously the case.
The above reasons are in addition to the traditional challenge for older couples of “empty nest syndrome”, where children have left home and couples can no longer hide behind their offspring as a means of ‘keeping things together’. The trends described above are borne out by the number of clients in their over 60s coming to Prentice Family Law. enquiring about divorce or separation. There are issues particular to divorcing couples in later life that are not so prevalent earlier on.