"Silver separations" on the rise in Britain

Thu Dec 20, 2012 10:59am EST
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By Dasha Afanasieva

LONDON (Reuters) - More men and women over 60 became divorced in England and Wales in 2011 than a year earlier, despite the overall divorce rate falling, according to figures released by the UK statistics body on Thursday.

Changes in their lives such as children leaving home and retirement, combined with higher life expectancy are thought to have contributed to people divorcing later in life.

While the overall number of divorces in England and Wales fell by 2 percent last year, so called "silver separations" rose by 5 percent, reaching the highest level since 1972's spike, when overseas divorces became recognized in UK law, the Office of National Statistics said.

"Older people getting divorced is often a result of couples drifting apart after ‘empty nest syndrome' as the children head off to university or move out of the family home," said John Nicholson, a family law partner at Irwin Mitchell.

UK pensions expert and campaigner, Ros Altmann thinks more than 15,000 men and women over the age of 60 got divorced last year partly because people are living longer.

"In the past couples might have stayed together because they thought 'What have I got left to live?' Now you're not old at 60. Your life is just beginning in a new phase," she said.

Breakdowns in high profile celebrity marriages have attracted attention to the trend.

In October, actors Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, both in their 60s, shocked Hollywood by ending their 30-year marriage.   Continued...