Family Law | The Rise of 'Grey Divorce': From Bill & Melinda to Silver Splitters Everywhere
Updated: Aug 7
When Bill Gates, one of the world's richest men, and his wife Melinda French Gates announced their divorce after 27 years of marriage in 2021, it became one of the most high-profile examples of a growing phenomenon: 'grey divorce'. Also known as 'silver splitter', this term refers to divorces involving individuals aged 50 and over – a demographic that is increasingly calling it quits on their marriages.
By the Numbers: Grey Divorce on the Rise
In 2021, there were 113,505 divorces granted in England and Wales, marking a 9.6% increase compared to the 103,592 divorces in 2020. While the overall number of divorces fell by 28% between 2005 and 2015, the number of men aged 65 and over getting divorced rose by 23%, and the number of women in the same age group increased by a staggering 38%.
It's not all doom and gloom, though. The most recent ONS marriage data shows that the number of brides and grooms aged 65 and over soared by 46% in a decade, from 7,468 in 2004 to 10,937 in 2014. Moreover, life expectancy has increased for both men and women, and the gap between male and female life expectancy is narrowing. This means that older people in England are more likely to live with their partners, leading to fewer widows and widowers living alone.
Grey Divorce: For Better or Worse?
Divorce is never easy, but when the couple is older, it can present unique challenges. Long-married couples often have their lives intertwined in complex ways, making the process of untangling them more difficult. For example, the family home may be mortgage-free, but the parties' mortgage capacity and retirement plans may need to be reevaluated. Grownup children also experience the impact of their parents' divorce, albeit in different ways than young children.
On the other hand, times have changed. More people over the age of 65 are working and can financially support themselves. They are also more active, socially connected, and living longer. With this new lease on life, it is no wonder that some people are choosing to pursue happiness, even if it means parting ways with their long-term partners.
So, whether you are a silver splitter or a golden oldie celebrating your diamond anniversary, one thing is for sure: the landscape of love and relationships is ever-evolving, and grey divorce is just another intriguing chapter in the story of modern love.
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The information provided in this article is not intended to constitute professional advice and you should take full and comprehensive legal, accountancy or financial advice as appropriate on your individual circumstances by a fully qualified Solicitor, Accountant or Financial Advisor/Mortgage Broker before you embark on any course of action.