The latest set of ONS figures indicates the number of divorcing over 60s continues to rise. Clare Wiseman, a specialist family lawyer with Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth, has found herself being instructed more and more frequently by people who are in their 60s, 70s and even 80s.
Clare says, “whereas in the past a couple might have reached a particular point in their marriage and felt it was too late in the day to separate, attitudes have changed. The stigma once attached to divorce is now largely gone. Elderly clients often tell me that they are all too conscious of the passage of time and that they are no longer willing to spend their remaining years in an unhappy marriage.”
Acting for the elderly can present quite particular challenges. Clare acted for one wife who had to move in with her daughter following divorce. Acting as ‘The Bank of Mum and Dad’, during their marriage the couple had gifted large sums of money to their children never expecting that they would need it back. As a result of their generosity the couple’s own pot simply couldn’t support two separate households and in a stark role reversal, the wife found herself dependent upon the children she had wanted to provide for.
Clare also acted for a husband who had been married very happily for 30 years, but on losing his wife he met and married another woman in a very short timescale. Where people have retired and lost their borrowing capacity or they are entirely dependent on pensions in payment, options can be limited. If one person is in ill health, then meeting their additional needs can also be tricky.
Clare says there are usually solutions but they require careful planning and creative thinking. In order to avoid losing a valuable widow’s or widower’s pension it is possible for a couple to “judicially separate” rather than divorce. In order to unlock money in the family home, there are a number of companies that will assist with equity release.
Clare also stresses how much importance people attach to the act of preparing and determining the content of their own will, without the interference of the other. Often a divorcing couple will know they both want to leave their assets to children or other relatives – however, they will feel it necessary to divide the pot whilst still alive and then each prepare their own will.
Separation and divorce is going to represent a significant change to you and your family. Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth offer unrivalled understanding and can provide guidance and support to you for all legal needs, whatever the circumstance, so you can plan appropriately and make the right decisions at the right time.