13 June 2018
As a baby boomer, I read the Relate report entitled ‘Who will love me when I'm 64' with great interest. I was heartened to be reminded that my Generation redefined society in many positive ways ‘from rock music to rising women's employment' but was less positive when reading about our impact on relationships. Statistics show that we married young but are much more likely to divorce than our parents. The high divorce rate combined with generally fewer marriages and more co-habitational relationships have led to a more fluid society with a very different family structure than a generation ago. Relate says that good relationships have a key role to play in our health, and by implication broken relationships can have adverse impact on individuals and can be especially harmful to older people, who may find themselves more isolated, later in life. The divorce rates amongst men and women aged 50-59 have risen between 1991 and 2011 – this increase in 'silver divorces' bucks the overall national trend, which has seen the number of divorces decline in other age groups. In 1991, 7.1% of men aged 50-59 divorced whereas by 2011 the figure had reached 10%. Similarly for women of the same age group 5.1% divorced in 1991 and 7.9% in 2011. This research has huge significance for Government forecasting and strategy and signals the need for urgent initiatives to be undertaken. The report recommends that local authorities consider carefully what support and access to counselling and other services will be put in place for 'older' people who are experiencing difficulties in their relationships. As a divorce lawyer, I have been aware of the 'looming crisis' among 50-65 year olds by virtue of the number of people of this age group coming to see me for legal advice. Many people envisage my role is limited to dealing only with the dissolution of a marriage/co-habitation rather than considering with clients at the outset whether reconciliation/marriage guidance counselling might help but that is always on my radar. Further, there are numerous resources I would typically refer to as a way of assisting in minimising conflict during the course of separation and divorce. In particular, I would highlight the Parenting after Parting Programme which helps parents of children of all ages, (either separately or jointly) to work through any issues that may be troubling their children at this time. I also spend time talking through the best process option for the client to include Mediation, Collaborative Law and Negotiation before moving along the spectrum to Litigation. It is imperative in my view that the client makes the best informed decision they can as to how their case should progress. I will then try and assist in creating a bespoke process that works for the individual client's needs and wishes. Of course it 'takes two to tango' so this isn't always possible and it may be that the way the case moves is influenced by the other party. We then just need to make sure that we are nimble and flexible and re-visit our strategy to move things forward in the best way possible.