It suddenly seems very real when you’re shopping for university essentials that in a few short weeks, there’ll be a cavernous silence instead of a noisy teenager around the house. For some couples, this might be a welcome return to that selfish sense of freedom you’ve not enjoyed since your twenties, but for others, it can shine a light on difficulties in a marriage that were masked by family life.
I have seen a general rise in divorces among 50-somethings that is supported by national figures. This is due partly to a trend for cohabitation among younger couples, so a relationship breakdown does not impact on statistics, but there is no doubt people feel more confident about striking out alone later in life than in previous generations.
Attitudes towards middle age have changed with increasing life expectancy. We are choosing to work well into our 60s and beyond, as improvements in healthcare, fitness, etc. mean our 50’s still feel young (I say that from personal experience) and we are not willing to settle for an unhappy marriage.
When children fly the nest, couples who bumbled along believing their relationship was just fine, suddenly realise they have nothing in common, don’t enjoy each other’s company and no longer wish to stay together.
In the past, many people, particularly women, feared a lack of future outside marriage. Changes to the law regarding spouses’ pension rights and the fact more women are high earners or self-sufficient in their own right, means financial security is not such an issue. In addition, we can provide reassurance the courts will ensure you are supported following separation if you sacrificed a career in the interests of the family.
That said, divorcing in your 50s requires the input of a solicitor with specialist financial experience, due to the complexity of pension regulations. Changes to the law allowing people to access pension savings at 55 have made it even more complicated and cash flow leading into retirement is a key issue needing expert consideration.
Judges’ attitudes to ongoing maintenance payments change rapidly and clear, up to date knowledge of the law is also vital to protect your best interests. Ongoing support for student children must be considered too whilst they are at university.