Divorce Advice for over 55s, aka the Silver Splitters
25 January 2016
Getting a divorce at any stage of life is upsetting and complicated, but if you are over 55 years old when you get a divorce, the chances are you will face different complexities and challenges to people who get divorced younger.
First and foremost, are the technical aspects of divorce; a divorce can be contested or not contested. This means you can agree with the divorce (non-contested) or not agree with the divorce (contested). In England and Wales, 90% of all divorces are not contested.
Secondly, you should consider the facts to support your divorce; this is the legal reason for your separation. There is only one ground for divorce and that is 'irretrievable breakdown' but there are five facts used in law to support this. They are:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Separation for two years (agreed with your ex-spouse)
- Separation for five years (not agreed with your ex-spouse)
By the time you are in your fifties, your children are probably grown up and may have left home and have families of their own. One or both of you may already be retired and you are probably still living in the family home where you raised your children. Your marriage has probably lasted for more than 30 years and this means that the financial aspects of your divorce are going to be complex.
In any divorce, the financial settlement is separate from the divorce itself. The main challenges for you are going to be about:
- Property you own
- Your pension
- Maintenance payments
In England and Wales there is now a requirement in law to consider Mediation before asking a Judge to make a decision on your financial divorce settlement. It is well worth getting expert legal advice from a specialist Divorce Solicitor so you know what provision the law will give you. If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement through your Solicitors, you will need to consider Mediation.
Mediation allows you to explore the issues that you cannot agree on through an independent third party, the Mediator. This meeting can be together or apart (in separate rooms) and it can often be cheaper and quicker than going to Court to agree your divorce settlement.
You should be aware that any agreement you make between yourselves or in Mediation is not legally binding. However, if your ex-spouse does not keep to the agreement, you can get a Court order to enforce this.
Whether you go to Court or not to agree the settlement, the aim is to be fair and consider both parties reasonable needs. The starting point is usually a 50/50 split, however there is flexibility around this and your Divorce Solicitor can explain this further based on your individual circumstances.
As you are nearing retirement or may already be retired, your pension will be, along with any property you own, be the biggest asset you have. If you consider the starting point of a 50/50 split, your retirement fund has just been halved.
This is not your only option though. You can negotiate terms based on your own needs and requirements. For example, your ex-spouse may want to keep the family home and you could therefore offset this against a smaller share of your pension; again your Divorce Solicitor can advise you based on your financial situation.
If you are over 55 and getting a divorce, two of the most important things that you can do are to keep the channels of communication open with your ex, and to get legal and financial advice from a specialist Divorce Solicitor to ensure you are protected throughout your financial settlement.
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