The rise of elderly divorcees

11 July 2017

Retired divorcees – also known as "silver splitters" – are fast becoming Britain's biggest growing demographic.

Though traditionally more likely to own their own homes, this growing demographic are renting in record numbers.

According to Countrywide, as many as 8% of privately renting tenants are now of pension age. This is compared to 5.2% in 2007. In addition to this, 53% of over-60s now live alone.

All this is illustrative of the divorce trend in the over-60s which, in stark contrast to declining number of divorces generally, is seeing a steady increase in numbers.

Many argue that this is due to societal changes including how accessible and taboo divorce used to be compared to how it is today. Pre-1945, divorce was taboo and not easily accessible, so the number of divorces was very few. Numbers rose dramatically between 1945 and 1970 when it became much easier to do. From 1970 to 2000 the divorce rate stayed consistent, finally seeing a drop after 2000 (except in the retired demographic), in line also with the declining number of marriages generally.

Longer life spans, later marriages and the trend towards having children later in life, is thought to be behind the increasing average age that people are getting divorced.

As couples get older, it is men who are more likely to file for and be granted divorce. The ONS suggests that this may be down to older women being traditionally more likely to suffer financially because of lower earnings over the course of their lifetimes, resulting in lower pensions after retirement.  

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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