By Peter Jones, founder of Jones Myers family law specialist
With longer lives and longer health, vigour and mobility, it is unsurprising that separation and divorce rates among seniors are rising too.
Long suppressed little irritations and tensions, that might have niggled for many years, but whose impact may have been lessened by the demands of children and busy lives, could achieve greater importance once the nest is empty or people start winding down to a life after work.
It might be that one or both partners only stayed in the marriage until the children had flown and, unable to face the often daunting prospect of spending every waking moment together, now want out. People are living fuller lives longer and a husband or wife may simply meet somebody and want to spend their remaining days with them. Unprecedented use of social media among the silver surfers might connect them with their long-lost first loves.
Any split should be given careful consideration and mediation services considered before going ahead. However, it is also important to avoid procrastinating when you are both certain that there is no hope of reconciliation.
Here are some tips for older divorces to take on board:
Children and grandchildren
As in any divorce, you are advised plan very carefully how you break the news to any children and step-children. They may be adults, but will still probably find it something of a shock and upset, so sensitive communication is important. The need for this will be even more pronounced if there are grandchildren.
Divorce can be hard on anybody, even when quick and amicable, and it is often a thoroughly bruising experience that delivers significant life changes. As such, seniors who split must take special care to minimise these downsides as they will feel them more keenly than other age groups, no matter how young at heart or adventurous they feel.
Firstly, think about your new living arrangements. At a time of life when comfort and ease might be most important, it is likely that your housing will be reduced from what you are used to, e.g. a small apartment after a large house and garden.
Any maintenance agreed might seem adequate or even generous at the time, but do bear in mind that this will have to be readjusted to your ex’s reduced pension income or if they suffer a financial loss through redundancy.
With this in mind, you will need independent financial advice to ensure that the division of retirement income is fair – including pension lump sums and ongoing receipts. Similarly, other savings and investments are likely to mature over the next few years, so all financial holdings should be examined keenly to guarantee equitable shares for both parties when they come to fruition.
Other policies, such as healthcare, insurance and death benefits must also be listed and understood before the divorce is completed, as they might have to be cancelled, cashed in or reorganised.
Do not forget court costs and professional fees, which should be factored in to your existing financial landscape.
Shared belongings and household contents and effects can become a battleground in any divorce. However, when a couple has been long-married, individual items might assume a greater sentimentality, which could generate greater conflict and bitterness. As with, any other split, it really does make sense to try to sit down and decide who has what, sensibly and without hysterics – even if it does come down to a ‘You can have that if I can have this’ negotiation.
So take time and think carefully and ensure that your separation is carefully planned to avoid as much pain and anguish as possible.
About Peter Jones
Peter Jones is one of the country’s leading divorce and family lawyers. A qualified arbitrator and mediator, Peter set up Jones Myers as the first niche family law firm in the north of England in 1992 and has acted for a string of high-profile clients.
Renowned for his sympathetic approach, he is a former national chairman of Resolution, a former Deputy District Judge – and instigated the D5 Group of law firms that promotes excellence in family law. www.jonesmyers.co.uk