The rise of ‘silver splitters’
Divorces among couples aged 50+ (so-called ‘silver splitters’) is on the rise despite the overall number of couples divorcing decreasing in recent years with 91,299 cases in 2018 compared to 102,007 in 2017. The increase has been attributed to an improved lifestyle with many mid-lifers feeling they are entering their prime and want to make the most of it, potentially with a new partner. However, choosing to separate or divorce when in your forties, fifties or even later can bring with it many complications.
‘Silver splitters’ typically fit the generation where men were more likely to have had sole responsibility for looking after household finances. As a result, some mid-life women experience a tougher time in dealing with the financial ramifications of a relationship breakdown, both in terms of understanding the value of the martial assets and how to manage their finances on a day-to-day basis once they set up home on their own.
The Court has wide redistributive powers to transfer assets from one spouse to the other. This can take the form of transferring capital assets, ordering ongoing maintenance payments, or making orders about pensions. The Court will take account of all the circumstances of the case and pay note to several matters including the assets, resources and needs of each party, the length of the marriage, and the standard of living enjoyed. These are known as the “Section 25 Factors”. In most cases the division of marital assets is based on the needs of each party rather than who owns a particular asset.
However, the position is very different where the two parties have been cohabiting but have remained unmarried. Where cohabiting parties break up, they have no automatic rights to make financial claims against each other. There is no such thing as a “common law marriage” so each party has to establish an interest in the former family home in order to have a share of the net equity. Co-habitees who purchased a property jointly have the same rights as any other co-buyers would have. The fact that they may have been in a relationship and have lived together for however long makes little, if any, difference.
Too often we see unmarried women who have been in a long-term relationship with their partner and, having raised children who are now grown up, find themselves with no financial security and no claims against their former partner when the relationship breaks down. Whilst it is possible to make claims where any children are still minors, any such claims are limited to providing for the children rather than the other party to the relationship.
Sometimes life doesn’t go according to plan. Divorce or a relationship breakdown can be a testing time, and negotiating a fair financial settlement can often add to the stress. At Barker Gotelee our experienced family solicitors are here to help. Please call 01473 611 211 to find out details of our Initial Consultation Process.
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Ipswich.