No shame in being a silver splitter

8th March 2015 by


In 2013 the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released figures which showed the number of couples getting divorced had fallen steadily since the mid-1990s. However, bucking the trend were those in the over 60 age group where long marriage divorce statistics showed significant increases from 1991 for both men and women.

While long marriage divorce has been occurring for generations, the revelations about increased numbers of pensioners separating from their spouses has seen the term “silver splitters” appearing in the media and a large amount of speculation as to the reasons behind this so-called phenomenon.

Silver splitting, what does it mean

Firstly, let’s clarify that the ONS statistics show the number of divorces for men over 60 who divorced in a single 12-month period – and likewise for women over 60 – but this does not mean that both parties to each divorce were over 60.

And while the incidence of over 60s divorcing is increasing year-on-year, the comparative rates are still very low. For example, the overall number of divorces for men of all ages was 10.8 per 1,000 married men in 2011 – the rate for men over 60 was 2.3 per 1,000. This represents an increase from 1991 when it was 1.6 per 1,000, but the number of older men getting divorced is still low when compared with the rate for all ages.

Research into long marriage divorce and why the figures for over 60s are increasing has offered a number of possible explanations as to why this particular group is contravening the overall decline. But, while the reasons are plausible, there could be any number of causes.

American academic studies have thrown up a number of conclusions, including:

  • Loss of taboo surrounding divorce – as more and more older couples get divorced per year (404,000 over 60s in 1991 compared to 1.3 million over 60s in 2011), the attached stigma lessens
  • Increased life expectancy – as men in England and Wales are now expected to live, on average, 26 years after the age of 60 (compared with 21 years in 1991), marriages are now more likely to end in divorce than in death when compared to 1991
  • Rise in number of working women – more women are now financially independent and continue their careers after childbirth. There is greater education about pensions and the importance of building up a separate pension to your spouse, so fewer women feel unable to support themselves after a late divorce

Divorce lawyers in London, Brighton and around the country have offered their own speculations as to why this generation of adults are turning to divorce, with many saying that the over 60s are the last generation of couples who saw marriage as “the norm” and a commitment for life. Now, men are living longer, cohabitation is widely accepted, and financial independence after a divorce financial settlement is more realistic for the couples of today.

So, as empty nest syndrome really sets in and couples who married 40 years previously are finding their hobbies and aspirations are no longer similar, the option to divorce may sometimes begin to look like a favourable one.

Healys divorce lawyers for long marriage divorce

If you are over 60 and thinking of divorcing your spouse or you have been married for a long time (20 years plus), it is important to seek family law advice to ensure any financial settlement claim is fair. There will be a number of serious considerations when applying for ancillary relief or defending a financial claim and a court will seek to ensure that the commitment to a long relationship is reflected in the division of assets.

Call the family law team at Healys in London or Brighton to discuss your circumstances and we will offer straightforward pragmatic legal advice to help you through this difficult time.