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What are the issues to consider in a grey divorce?

Grey divorce is the term given to divorces involving couples in the later stages of their lives.  As the couple are at a very different stage of life to many divorcing couples, there are different issues to consider in a grey divorce.

Until ‘no fault divorce’ came in and the effects of the pandemic has been felt, the UK’s divorce rate had been flattening for some time.  However, one group that was bucking this trend was the number of older couples divorcing.

While divorce is never easy, divorcing later in life, particularly after a long marriage, means there are some very specific issues to consider in a grey divorce.

What are the reasons for a grey divorce?

By definition every couple is different.  Therefore, the reasons for every divorce are different.  However, there are some common themes to explain the rise in grey divorces.

The first is the couple has simply grown apart now their children have left home for university or to start their own families.

Retirement could be another factor.  Suddenly spending all your time with a partner that you used to see in between working can be a huge adjustment for some.

It could just be a desire to make changes that suit either party best for their remaining years.

Money could also be a factor.  When you’re working, it’s easy to lose track of your partner’s spending habits or financial provisions because a regular salary is coming in.  When that salary comes to an end, there may be a realisation that starting a new chapter could provide a more secure financial future.

And a longer life expectancy shouldn’t be overlooked.  The average life expectancy for a man is 84.  For a woman it is 86.  Moreover, more than 1 out of 10 of those who are 65 today will live past age 90.

It could simply be the case that splitting up is a more attractive prospect than staying together for the next 20 years, especially if each spouse has a very different plan for those 20 years.

Whatever the reasons for your split, you need to make sure both you and your spouse are properly provided for during the coming years.

How do you reach the best financial settlement in a grey divorce?

Spousal maintenance is a part of every divorce.  Agreeing an acceptable rate of maintenance in a grey divorce can sometimes be tricky.

Given the length of your marriage, it could well be the case that one spouse – most probably the wife – could have been the primary if not full time carer for your children.  If one spouse has been a stay-at-home mother (or father) and has been out of the workforce for some time, this could leave them at a disadvantage during negotiations.

Spousal maintenance has been designed to ensure the higher earning spouse  pays an amount of money to the lower or non-earning spouse that will cover their living expenses and provide them with some much needed financial stability.

However, as the party paying support will either have retired or be nearing retirement age, there will be questions over how much they will be able to pay moving forward and how long they will be able to continue to make payments at this level.

It may be the case that they need to push their retirement back to meet their financial obligations.  Or, if they are already relying on their pension, it may be that it will not stretch to cover two sets of bills and the demands of two separate lives.

All these complexities need to be carefully navigated during the negotiation of a financial settlement in a grey divorce.  Sometimes it is easier to reach an agreeable and mutually beneficial settlement using mediation rather than traditional court proceedings.

If you are planning to split later in life, is mediation a better option?

If you are reaching the later stages of your life, you don’t want to spend the next few

months or even years spending large sums of legal fees or putting yourself through the stress and upset of extended arguments as you try to reach a financial settlement.

Mediation could well be a better option.

Mediation could well be new to you.  It is a process that encourages separating couples to take greater control of their situation so they can reach a final settlement through agreement rather than through formal legal proceedings.

During the mediation a specially trained mediator will encourage you to communicate, co-operate and to stay focused on reaching outcomes and finding viable solutions.  Your mediator will also set the pace and tone to facilitate productive discussions away from what can often become the intimidating and hostile atmosphere of a court room.

If you would like to find out more about family mediation or ask about the different issues to consider in a grey divorce, you will find more information on our website or you can speak to one of our trained and accredited mediators, Bernadette Hoy or Aisling Collins.