Big rise in divorces for the over 60s brings warnings to seek financial advice when splitting assets such as pensions

6th August 2013

The number of people getting divorced aged 60 and above is increasing dramatically according to the Office for National Statistics a trend that contrasts dramatically for the population at large where the number of divorces has been falling steadily.

Taking the figures for men over 60, the ONS says number of divorces rose during the 1970s before stabilising during the 1980s and 1990s at between 5,000 and 6,000 divorces a year.

The number increased again in the late 1990s and in 2011, nearly 9,500 men aged 60 and over divorced. This is a 73% increase compared with 1991. The government statistics body says similar trends have been observed for women aged 60 and over; 5,800 women in this age group divorced in 2011 compared with 3,200 in 1991.

Pension firm Prudential has used the figures to urge anyone divorcing but particularly women who may have fewer sources of income to seek professional financial advice – a view Mindful Money endorses strongly.

Some advisers set out their stall as working with other professionals in particular lawyers in such circumstances and given that the over 60s may have a lot of assets in pensions and other portfolios, other property, but also a lot less time to build additional savings through working, it makes a huge amount of sense.

Prudential’s analysis of this data shows that between 1991 and 2011, the number of divorces amongst men aged 60 plus increased by 73% and the corresponding figure for women is 82%. This is despite an overall decline in divorce rates of 26% for the same period.

It notes that according to Prudential’s Class of 2013 study, the average expected income for those retiring this year is already at a six-year low, however divorce reduces this by a further 16 per cent. As a result, people retiring this year who have been through a divorce expect an average annual income of £13,800, compared with £16,400 for those who have not been through a marriage breakdown.

Clare Moffat, pensions specialist at Prudential, says: “Divorce can be emotionally draining but also financially draining as the retirement income gap for divorcees demonstrates. Whether it is due to the financial implications of splitting existing pensions, the cost of setting up a new home or legal fees, divorce clearly has a major impact on the retirement plans of many people.”

“Women’s retirement incomes are particularly vulnerable to the financial effects of divorce. Many of them may be relying on their husband’s pension and in some couples the wife may have had little input to the financial decisions that have been made over the years.

The ONS, looking at its stats in more detail says it should be noted that men aged 60 and over could be getting divorced from women of any age (and vice versa for women aged 60 and over).

The ONS adds that while overall the numbers of men and women divorcing are equal, the number of men aged 60 and over divorcing is usually higher than the number of women in the same age group divorcing because husbands tend to be older than their wives on average.

The ONS adds that part of the reason for this increase in the numbers of older people divorcing is that the population of England and Wales is growing and ageing. Therefore, examining changes in divorce rates (the number of divorces per 1,000 married men or women) provides a better indication of trends over time. Taking men of all ages as an example, there were 10.8 divorces per 1,000 married men in 2011, a decrease from 13.6 in 1991.

For those aged 60 and over there were 2.0 or more divorces per 1,000 married men in the 1970s after the Divorce Reform Act came into effect. This then fell to 1.6 in 1991. Since then divorce rates in this age group have increased to 2.3 per 1,000 married men in 2011, in contrast to the downward trend seen for all ages.

Civil partnership dissolutions were first granted in 2007. The ONS says that between 2007 and 2011, the latest year for which statistics are available, 92 dissolutions in England and Wales were granted to those aged 60 and over. This represents less than 3% of all dissolutions.

If you follow these links, the MoneyAdviceService has a section on divorce and pensions as does the Pensions Advisory Service and local whole of market financial advisers are searchable on This will let you search for advisers with divorce and pensions expertise – under the pension category.


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