What is a “grey divorce”
Grey divorce is a term coined to describe older couples who are seeking a divorce after, perhaps decades of marriage. Over the past twenty years or so, solicitors have been reporting a steady rise in the numbers of grey divorces. As with any divorce, separating in your later years can be an extremely difficult time, both emotionally and practically.
Reasons behind the rise
There are several reasons why more and more older people are finding themselves contemplating divorce nowadays. Divorce has lost much of the stigma that used to surround it, which means that people feel less concerned about splitting up, as opposed to remaining in unhappy marriages for the sake of appearances. Secondly, we are living longer as a society, meaning that more of us are enjoying an extended period of retirement and older age. Healthcare is better too, so it is easier for most of us to enjoy our later years – often the desire to experience a ‘new lease of life’ can lead to major decisions being made around whether or not to continue a marriage.
Many grey divorces happen when children leave home to go to university, set up on their own or to get married themselves. The ’empty nest’ syndrome can leave many patents and carers wondering what’s next for themselves as their lived undergo a huge transformation. Finally, just as divorce is becoming more acceptable to society, so too is remarriage, with second, third and even fourth marriages not an uncommon phenomenon in the UK. Statistically speaking, subsequent marriages don’t always last as long as first ones, which can also go some way towards explaining the rise of the grey divorce and relationships becoming shorter-lived as we age.
Self-care during a divorce
Older people facing divorce can experience a wide range of emotions and it is vital that they look after themselves, seeking support from reliable, compassionate friends and family members and not expecting too much of themselves while the process is underway. Everyone involved needs time to think about what they want to happen next, and how they are going to achieve their newly-formed hopes for the next stage in life.
Remember to eat and drink properly. While you may wish to slow down your daily routine slightly as you come to terms with what is happening, try to remain as active as you feel able to, in order to take care of your health. Avoid spending too much time on your own. Don’t invest too much negative emotion, anxiety or time in arguments or animosity – seek professional support from a solicitor or mediator to resolve disputes as amicably and as quickly as possible. Don’t be afraid to lean on younger family members for emotional support, as they will be able to help you navigate your way through and may offer a valuable perspective into your situation from a different generation.
There is a lot to think about for divorcing couples of any age. Older couples will face many challenges, not least working out the best way to talk to family members about the future, decide on living arrangements for any dependents, rewrite wills and work out how to divide up assets amassed during the marriage. Many older people will have built up sizeable pensions, savings, property portfolios and cherished belongings that must be split up and their ownership agreed upon. Will you need to sell a house or end a rental contract? All these things and more are best organised with the help of a professional solicitor who is well-versed in handling divorces for older couples.