Separating is never easy, regardless of what age and stage a person is at.  There is no right or wrong age to get married and there's no right or wrong age at which to divorce.  Every couple and every family is individual and what works for some may not work for others. The way marriage is viewed is changing and the stigma around divorce is diminishing – it's not what it was 20, 30 or even 10 years ago. 

If you are considering separating, however difficult that decision may be, it might be helpful to consider what individuals, depending on their age, may focus on when separating.  It's not definitive, nor is it exhaustive, but what everyone going through a separation should do is seek legal advice at an early stage.

Divorce in your 20s and 30s:

They say that marriage is made in heaven, but so too is thunder and lightning.  The reasons for younger couples separating are numerous – financial stresses, high strain following the birth of children and different approaches to childcare and housework.  Some separate because they were too young and innocently enough, didn't know what love was or what they wanted in life when they said, 'I do'.

For couples with young children, it's likely contact arrangements will take priority.  Issues such as payment of school fees, extra-curricular activities and child maintenance need to be agreed.  For all couples, discussion will need to take place as to the future of the matrimonial home – is it to be sold, is it to be transferred?  If you're renting, will one of you take it on solo or should you end the tenancy and both start afresh?  Spousal support is likely to be less of an issue if both parties are working and contributing to their own pensions.

Divorce in your 40s and 50s:

At this stage, couples tend to find themselves back in the spotlight.  Any children of the marriage may be finishing school or already be at college or university.  The empty nest is no longer comfortable and the spouses or partners are left thinking 'what's next'?  It may be that finances have been the cause of tension between the couple.  One party may have been more financially astute and the other less so.  Accumulation of debt, overspending or mismanagement of funds can also cause friction.

Again, there will be property to be dealt with.  There may be discrepancies in salaries and pension pots if one party has taken time out or had a career break to look after children.  Matters such as financial dependency and the support of adult children at college or university will need to be carefully considered.  Did either party have any pre-marriage assets (or liabilities) which they brought to the marriage?

It's best – both for the couple,and adult children (who can be profoundly affected by parental separation), if they can resolve all issues arising from their separation as amicably as possible. It's worthwhile reading into the benefits of mediation or the Collaborative Practice and finding out how these processes can help you separate with respect, cooperation and open-mindedness.

Divorce in your 60s, 70s and 80s:

Some say that 'grey divorces' are on the rise.  There are many unique challenges to divorcing later in life and many reasons why people 60+ separate; growing apart, retirement, illness or differences in lifestyle choices to name just a few.  It's also worth remembering that people are living longer and may have different expectations in their 60's and 70's than those of their parents and grandparents.

If the marriage has been a lengthy one, it's likely the couple will have built up considerable assets during the period of marriage.  Heritable property and pensions are usually the most valuable assets.  But there may also be holdings in family companies or partnerships which bring particular challenges.  Issues such as inheritances and inter-mingling of pre-marriage assets will need to be carefully considered by solicitors.

But what might the 'silver splitters' themselves focus on?  Spousal support is likely to be a priority for a spouse or partner who was financially dependent on the other during the marriage or partnership.  They may need help coping with the transition to financial independence.  Individuals may also be worried about the impact of divorce on their pension – whether they are nearing retirement age or if their pension is already in payment.  They may also think about provision for later in life, such as meeting the costs of any care home fees. Careful succession planning is key.  Finally, those separating later in life should keep a careful watch on their physical and mental health.  The process of separation is often a stressful one and can exacerbate any underlying health conditions.

If you would like to get in touch about any of the matters discussed above, please read more about what Brodies Family Law can advise you on here.  Otherwise you can contact us below - whatever your situation, we can help.


Kate Bradbury