Divorce For Over 65-year-olds

Data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which analysed behavioural statistics surrounding marriage and divorce in recent decades points to a notable rise in ‘silver splicers’ or ‘silver separators’ – terms used to describe divorcing couples over the age of 65. Interestingly, this upwards trend is in stark contrast to the tendencies of younger generations who are conversely avoiding divorce altogether (2022 witnessed the lowest record of divorces in the UK since 1971).

Research shows that the number of men applying for divorce in England and Wales at the age of 65 and above has steadily increased by a significant 23% between 2005 and 2015, with women registering an even larger figure of 38%. Other surveys in international territories have reported similar data with multiple terms being coined to describe this growing phenomenon, such as the U.S.A’s ‘grey divorce’ and Japan’s ‘Retired Husband Syndrome’.

A Shift in Societal Norms

The last 50 years have seen a number of paradigm-shifting developments in modern society on a world-wide scale, all of which have contributed in some way to this apparent ‘divorce-prone’ mindset in older generations. A primary influence can be traced to the sexual revolution of the 1970s which brought about a change in the status-quo of what was acceptable for people to prioritise in their lives, with a focus on attaining happiness and self-fulfilment rather than forcibly carrying out what was perceived to be one’s ‘duty’.

Coupled with an increase in life-expectancy, this rejection of stoicism helped to foster a more accepting attitude towards divorce and people began to no longer view the institution of marriage as an ultimate, unbreakable life commitment. The influence of second-wave feminism also encouraged even more women to join the workforce as they had already been doing since the first and second world wars, and this gradually eroded at the patriarchal, nuclear family ideal which had always championed men as the sole breadwinners of their households. The resulting redistribution of power in heterosexual relationships meant that women were less likely to select a partner purely for financial security, which in turn also affected prevailing attitudes towards marriage.

The Empty Nest Phenomenon

Nonetheless, traditional belief systems are deeply entrenched and so many couples will have still chosen to marry for more conservative reasons during this time. Over the years, however, cracks in ill-matched relationships are exacerbated, often giving way to a plethora of marital issues such as infidelity, addiction, and domestic abuse which puts further strain on these already struggling marriages.

Occupation Orders And When They Are NeededAt this stage, a major catalyst in many couples reaching the end of their proverbial tethers occurs when their children, who can often end up becoming the primary aim or only ‘common ground’ of their relationship, grow up and move out of the marital home. In their absence, both partners are then forced to address the reality that they may have grown apart over the years and no longer relate to each other as they once did at the start of their relationship. Differing views on finances, personal interests or goals, and emotional fulfilment then come to the forefront in an even more pronounced manner and, for many, this is when they finally decide to entertain the possibility of a divorce.

What Divorcing in Later Life Means

Although some couples will still seek alternatives to officially getting divorced in such cases – Judicial Separations allow couples to legally separate their assets without necessarily ending their marriage for example – for those who do decide to dissolve their marriage, the process is generally more complex at this stage in life due to a variety of factors:

  • Income – Most individuals are soon looking to retire, or have already done so, at this age and so consideration as to how monthly outgoings will be paid and how any existing income streams will be divided needs to be made with this in mind.
  • Living arrangements – Deciding how to transition to separate housing and what exactly happens to the marital home in this event can be a very contentious point of debate, especially due to the reduced financial freedom that comes with no longer sharing expenses as a couple.
  • Liabilities – Couples may as well have accrued shared debt or other financial liabilities during the course of their marriage, arising from business ventures or investments, and so they will need to decide how these will be repaid and by whom in what percentage.
  • Pensions – There are also a multitude of ways in which to divide or offset pensions between spouses in the event of a divorce as they are considered to be assets within the shared ‘matrimonial pot’. Finding a suitable arrangement that works for both parties in their chosen new lives can be difficult for obvious reasons.


At Grayfords, our expert solicitors have a wealth of experience dealing with divorces of all age groups and we understand just how challenging it is to embark on such an undertaking at any age, both from an administrative standpoint and also emotionally speaking. However, with our holistic approach, we enable our clients to prioritise fighting for their best interests in negotiating a separation by guiding them through all the intricacies of this process. If you are looking to get divorced or need assistance with another legal family matter, don’t hesitate to book your free consultation today to find out more about how we can help.

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