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Women Aged Over 55 Buck the Divorce Trend as Rising Retiree Divorce Rates Drive Equity Release

Women Aged Over 55 Buck the Divorce Trend as Rising Retiree Divorce Rates Drive Equity Release

Divorce rates increase in women aged over 50

New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicate that divorce is on the wane. Measured as both a rate and a total number, it fell to the lowest level for 40 years in 2014. In all, 111,169 couples in England and Wales divorced in 2014, a decrease of 3.1% in a year and a decline of around 27% over a ten-year period. The divorce rate fell by around 30% in a ten-year period, for both women and men, to reach 9.3 per thousand married people.

Amanda Melton, IBB’s divorce law expert, commented:

“Couples are living together first and only marrying later hence the decrease in the number of divorces in young couples declining. It is probably not indicative of the fact there are fewer separating couples but rather that they are just not marrying and separating early in the marriage. As they will have been together for a short while and do not have children these are probably fairly straight forward separations. The risk is of course that they decide not to marry at all but stay together for many years, have children but still do not marry which will undoubtedly cause hardship if/when they do decide to separate later in life“.

Analysis of the 2014 figures shows that around two-thirds of all divorces in England and Wales cite either adultery or unreasonable behaviour (66,588).

The official figures also show that even marriages which ultimately end in divorce are lasting longer than in the past. The median duration of such a marriage was 11.7 years in 2014, compared with 9.6 years in 1995 and 8.9 years a decade previously. Harry Benson of the Marriage Foundation, a think-tank, said that this reflected a decrease in the number of couples divorcing within the first ten years of marriage – widely regarded as the most dangerous period for wedded couples.

Divorce lawyers and experts suggest the decline in divorce is indicative of a shift away from marriage, with more couples choosing to live together in the first instance.

Sir Paul Coleridge, former High Court family judge and founder of Marriage Foundation, said: “It really is heartening news . . . that the number of intact families is not declining despite the generally held myth that divorce is simply set to get worse and worse.”

Women aged over 55 buck the trend

Analysis of the ONS data reveals that women aged 55 and over are the only group to have seen a rise in the divorce rate over the past decade.

Although divorce among men declined across all age groups, rates for women increased by 1.9% for ages 55 to 59 and remained unchanged for ages 60 and over.

Rising retiree divorce rates driving equity release

Personal finance experts say the increase in divorce among women over the age of 55 is partially driven by increased financial independence. These women are now more able to support themselves following divorce. Other reasons for the rise in divorce include increased longevity.

Amanda Melton:

“What is more interesting is the increase in older couples divorcing. There are a number of factors which affect this including the fact we have an extended life expectancy and are generally more mobile. This leads to the over 50’s feeling that they have a number of years left in which they can actually enjoy their life. If their relationship is not working and their children are independent they are looking at making a new life for themselves and enjoying the years they still have in good health. In this sector of the population women are also much more independent and may well have had their own careers. Even if they have not and have been the homemaker they are still likely to get at least 50% of the assets which,if it is sufficient to re house them, is an attractive escape route. This coupled with the fact that divorce in the over 50’s is now more socially acceptable than at any time before acts as a temptation to make the most of the years ahead of them”.

It has been noted that a growing number of such fiftysomething divorcées are looking to use their property wealth to stay in the family home as many will struggle to raise the necessary funds for deposits for new houses. In the absence of mortgages which enable older borrowers more flexibility, equity release is seen as a way to help divorcing couples divide an estate without having to lose the family home entirely, while enabling the other partner fund a deposit for a new home.

Confiding in female friends may encourage a split

A U.S. report suggests that a woman who confides in a close female friend during a difficult patch in a relationship is more likely to hinder than help the situation. Women who unburdened themselves to a girlfriend, instead of to a partner, were a third more likely to break-up, said Dr Jakob Jensen of East Carolina University.

In the two-year long study, 67 women in their 20s were asked about romantic relationships and the problems they had within them, and who they chose to discuss problems with – their partner or a best friend. The researchers found that sharing concerns with a friend increased the likelihood of termination in a relationship by a third. However, discussing matters with a partner doubled the chances of the couple staying together.

“Frequent relationship work with partners was linked with greater romantic stability, whereas frequent relationship work with friends predicted instability,” suggests the report.

Contact our divorce and family law experts today

Our divorce, family and matrimonial lawyers are based in Chesham, Buckinghamshire but help families across both West London and Buckinghamshire. For advice please contact a member of the team on 03456 381381 or email us at familylaw@ibblaw.co.uk.