“It is often the case that after the children have flown the nest, two individuals sit on the sofa, look at each other and suddenly realise that they have very little in common. Very little of the glue that used to bind them together is left,” says Davina Hay, an associate at law firm Schillings, who specialises in matrimonial law.
It tends to be women over 50, rather than men, who instigate divorce, she says. “That’s largely because sociologically, women tend to find a sort of emancipation as they get older whereas men tend to find it in their 30s or 40s.
“By the time men reach 50 or 60 they want to know what they’ve got and want the stability of it, whereas women want the reverse,” she says.
The oldest client Hay has acted for is a 79-year-old man who was in commercial real estate, with quite substantial wealth. “It was his wife who wanted to separate. She was eight or nine years younger and they had been married for nearly 40 years. It’s very sad when a client comes to see you and they talk about getting a divorce,” says Hay.
“It’s quite remarkable when you’re sat talking to someone who has come to see you and actually been married for multiple decades and is far into life, seeking something as dramatic as getting a divorce, and everything that will flow from it at that age,” she adds.
Most people are inclined to think ‘why not just carry on if you’ve managed to for so long’ but others choose not to, says Hay.
Retirement and pension rights are very important when a couple parts because a pension can be a large matrimonial asset of a long marriage, especially if the husband has been the breadwinner.
A wife in her 60s may not have worked since earlier in her life and may find the change in circumstances difficult – with some cruise brands encouraging people to share cabins to save money, for example.