Couples 'wait to divorce in 50s after children leave home'


Couples could be waiting for their children to leave home before getting divorced, lawyers said after new figures showed over-50s "silver separators" are the only age group in which splits are rising.

New statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the number of couples getting divorced in England and Wales has decreased again with the over-50s the only major group showing an increase.

The ONS compared these new 2013 figures with those for 2003, and found that while divorce in virtually all age groups had decreased there was an increase only in the oldest age bracket and in the small number of men under 20 who separate from their spouses.

It said there has been a trend towards the group with the highest rates getting older in recent years with the 40 to 44 age bracket seeing the most divorces.

Family lawyer Marilyn Stowe said she believes more parents may be staying together "for the sake of the children" and this accounts for older people getting divorced.

Ms Stowe, from Stowe Family Law, said: "After looking at the ONS figures, it seems more parents are now staying together for the sake of their children and waiting until they are older before bringing their marriage to an end.

"Couples seem to have weathered the storm together particularly for the sake of the children. When the children have left home, given longer life spans, a general increase in wealth, easier pension and wealth sharing, all can lead to this rise we are also seeing in divorce rates for couples in later middle age."

Alison Hawes, partner at Irwin Mitchell solicitors, said: "The issue of so-called silver separation is now more common and acknowledged than ever before. We have seen a number of cases when people at this point in their life simply drift apart, often as a result of empty nest syndrome which emerges when children have grown up and left the family home.

"This shifts the dynamics of a relationship and can mean that issues or animosity which had been placed to one side in the past comes once again to the fore.

"Similarly, with life expectancy rising, those in unhappy relationships may simply not be looking to spend another 20 or 30 years in their current situation."

The ONS said the latest divorce figures continue the general decrease in the divorce rate since 2004. It said the rates are now broadly similar to those in the 1970s.

The statistics show:

:: There was a decrease in divorces of 2.9% from 2012 to 2013 with a total of 114,720 granted in 2013.

:: The average length of a marriage at divorce was 11.7 years in 2013.

:: Women in their late 20s had the highest divorce rate of all female age groups. 

:: The average of divorce is 45.1 years for men and 42.6 years for women.

:: No new statistics have been released for the percentage of marriages that end in divorce so the official proportion remains at the 42% figure last calculated in 2011.

:: 20% of marriages in 1968 had ended in divorce by the 15th wedding anniversary whereas for those married in 1998, 32% had ended by this time.

:: 29% of 2013 divorces involved couples where at least one of the parties had been divorced or widowed before.