Divorce among over 55s increases as overall rate falls

By Lenore Rice

Women over the age of 55 are the only group to see an increase in the divorce rate in the past ten years, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics, but the reason has more to do with younger couples.

There were 111,169 divorces in England and Wales in 2014, down by 3.1 per cent on the previous year, and down 27 per cent compared to a decade ago. The only group to see an increase in divorce was women aged 55 and over, but the statistics reveal more about the attitudes of younger couples when it comes to marriage than they do about the prevalence of divorce among older people.

More couples are cohabiting before making the step to marriage, so more separations are taking place in that period, and thereby staying out of the divorce statistics. Those that go on to marry have, for the large part, past the difficult early period that has previously been the end for young married couples. Statistics show that even those married couples that do get divorced are staying together longer - average of 11.7 years in 2014 compared to 9.6 years in 1995.

Women aged 55 and over generally married at a time when cohabitation did not enjoy the same level of acceptance as it currently does. They are also of an age when children are likely to be at least starting their career path and most probably have left the family home, so they may feel that separation would have less of an impact on the family at this stage in their life. Longer life expectancy is also a factor, as people aged over 55 still have a significant period of work and retirement ahead of them.

Given the increase of cohabiting couples and decline in marriage, divorce rates are likely to continue to fall, though the complexities around separation will remain, if not in some cases get worse, as cohabiting couples do not enjoy the same recognition in the eyes of the law as married couples.

If you require legal advice from a divorce solicitor in Northern Ireland contact Wilson Nesbitt in Belfast or Bangor by clicking here. Our family law experts are also available to provide advice on cohabitation agreements and other issues around separation, such as child maintenance, child contact and division of assets.