“How can I divorce with dignity late in life?”

Julia Smart

Walt Disney’s nephew, Roy, and Patricia, his wife of 52 years, divorced at the age of 77 and 72 respectively. A spokesperson for the couple said that “This has been in the works for a long time. They’ve just decided to move forward with their lives”.

30 years ago, such a thing would have been unheard of. Even 10 years ago, it was rare in the UK divorce courts, but now, late-life divorces are no longer so uncommon.

Whilst the current rate of divorce in England & Wales is at its lowest since 1981, the Office for National Statistics show that the proportion of divorces amongst the over 60s has increased.

Whether that’s because a divorce has been “in the works for a long time” or some other reason, the issues for couples who divorce late in life are far ranging.

What issues arise for a couple who separate later in life ?

Helping a couple separate or divorce late in life can be more complex than for the younger couple who have invested less in their relationship, and how to best use and/or protect a pension provision built up over a long marriage may not be straight forward.

The family home may by now be mortgage free, but its sale might not realise sufficient funds to re-house both individuals. Financial independence may be a reality, but the costs of living remain a mystery to the one who has never before had to manage a household budget.

“We were married for 47 years, and our goal was to end our marriage, not destroy our family”.

In addition to worries about financial security and management, the break up can bring on physical isolation for one or both parties, as family and friends take sides, and contact with children and grandchildren is adversely affected and even lost. Previous inheritance tax planning can be undermined by a divorce. Who will inherit in the absence of a spouse, and how might potential post death claims be avoided, are questions, along with many others, that may have not been previously considered.

How might some of these issues be resolved with dignity?

Roy and Patricia Disney chose the Collaborative Family Practice method to end their long marriage. By doing so, they ensured that no attendance at court was needed, all decisions were kept in their hands and their Collaborative Divorce remained confidential.

Most senior clients that I work with want to get through their divorce with their dignity intact; do what is best for their children and grandchildren; come up with a fair financial settlement with their spouse of many years; be able to attend family christenings, weddings and funerals, and move on with the remainder of their lives.

The experience of a recently retired person was that “…Collaborative Law helped by wife and I to work together in difficult circumstances to resolve our differences respectfully, in private and without the threat of court action. We were married for 47 years and our goal was to end our marriage, not destroy our family”.

Collaborative Lawyers often work with Family Consultants, Counsellors and Psychotherapists who help clients manage the emotions of divorce, and the Financial Planners who are recognised as specialists in handling the complex financial issues that face divorcing couples. By working together, the Collaborative “team” of professionals can help separating and divorcing couples of all ages find creative solutions to their issues at an affordable cost. Those solutions are crafted by the couple themselves with help and guidance, rather than dictated by a “one size fits all” solution from a divorce court.

Which would you choose?

Julia Smart
Tel: 0117 929 0451


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