Newcastle’s Top Divorce and Family Law Specialist, Joanne Major comments in the Tyne Valley Express

It’s usually around now that there’s a grudging acceptance that summer is over: the light changes; the air smells different; and thoughts turn to autumn, with the leaves turning on the trees, and the nights drawing in.

Whilst autumn is often seen as a time of ending, for some it’s a time of new beginnings, particularly for those preparing to go to university for the first time. It’s a time of excitement, trepidation, and often tears from parents who are faced with returning to an empty nest for the first time in many years.

Interestingly, empty nest syndrome has been cited as one of the reasons that divorce in the over 60s has risen in recent years. Divorce statistics produced by the Office for National Statistics show that whilst the overall number of people getting divorced each year has continued to decrease since the 1990’s, the number of people aged 60 years and over divorcing has risen significantly during this period, by as much as 73%. The baby boomers are becoming silver splitters!

With the children having grown up and moved out and with time on their hands together following retirement, mature couples are finding that not only do they have less in common than they thought, but that they are not prepared to simply tolerate each other once their family has moved on. With many people remaining active for longer, some are seeking to make the most of a time in their life without familial ties and with a level of financial certainty.

Despite the average length of marriage of divorcing over 60s being over 27 years, it seems that is no longer a bar to starting over. It has been suggested that the lessening stigma of divorce contributes to this rising trend, as does the increased financial independence of women.

Ros Altmann, Director General of the over-50s group Saga, said: ‘This is more proof that life is really changing for the over-60s and for many it’s the start of the next phase of their lives, not the end of their life as people in the past were often led to expect”.

And it’s true that as a nation we are living longer. Therefore, the overall number of people over 60 is increasing.  Increased life expectancy would tend to show that marriages are now more likely to end in divorce and less likely to end by the death of  a spouse than in 1991.

Whilst this trend may fly in the face of our preconceptions, it is nevertheless a reality which needs sensitive and expert handling. For some, it can leave at least one of the parties feeling vulnerable and lonely and seemingly ill-equipped for single life at a mature stage in life.  Dividing possessions and starting again can be deeply traumatic after so many years as part of a couple.

As with everything, a situation which is not going to go away is best faced with an armoury of information and options. Knowing how to source support on a legal and financial level, and more importantly, on an emotional level is key to moving on. We recognise that at Major Family Law and have a number of services specifically designed to support you and ensure that you are able to start a new chapter with confidence.

Joanne Major is owner of Major Family Law, the Divorce and Family Law Specialists, Ponteland, Newcastle Upon Tyne.  Twitter@majorfamilylaw

Tel: 01661 82 45 82