Divorce numbers are falling in the UK – but older people are bucking the trend, according to official statistics.
While divorce across all age groups dropped by 28% in the past 10 years, the numbers for the over 65s have rocketed.
The number of men over 65 splitting up rose by 23%, while the number of women of the same age divorcing was up 38%.
“The increase in older people ending and forming new relationships is likely to be because they are living longer,” says the study by the Office of National Statistics.
“In 2004, an average 65-year-old man could expect to live for a further 17 years and a woman for a further 20 years. Continuing a long-term trend, in 2017, this has increased to 19 years for a man and almost 22 years for a woman. The gap between male and female life expectancy is also narrowing.”
A change in finances has contributed to the surge in retirement divorces.
But although the number of grey divorces has increased, so have the number marrying.
The most recent data shows almost 11,000 married in 2014 – an increase of 46% over the 7,468 getting together in 2004.
The ONS says more over 65s are working, so can afford to split up, while a change in inheritance tax rules in October 2007 meant married couples could transfer tax reliefs and leave larger estates to their loved ones.
“We can’t rule out people divorcing because they can afford to and marrying for practical purposes,” said the ONS.
Meanwhile, financial firm Royal London is warning the over 65s who change their relationship status to make sure they tell their pension providers who should inherit their cash when they die.
Although providers can investigate who should benefit from unspent pensions, savers can fill in a simple form that helps avoid any confusion.
Royal London personal finance specialist Helen Morrissey said: “Far more people are marrying or separating later in life than in the past. As well as new spouses and partners, this brings new children and step children into the mix. We would encourage anyone who has changed their marital status since they first joined a pension scheme to make sure that the scheme knows their wishes. This includes pension rights that you may have built up when you worked for previous firms”.