The Silver Splitter

By Vanessa Lloyd Platt

Posted: 12th August 2014 08:40

Over the last two years certain discernible trends have been developing in divorce and matrimonial cases.  Some are as a direct result of the impact of the recession and others as a result of changing social trends. 
 
This article is about the trend of the silver splitter.  What is this?  How is it affecting clients and what advice and assistance can be offered by divorce practitioners?
 
There is no doubt that the age of the parties divorcing is slowly on the rise.  The biggest group instructing divorce practitioners countrywide and particularly in London are those aged 45 to 70 and plus.  This ever increasing group having been dubbed “silver splitters” by the media, although as anyone really knows, this group are the most unlikely to allow any silver or grey to appear!  So what is causing this group in particular to emerge as the forerunners of relationship breakdown?
 
Having conducted specific surveys into this group, they can be divided by gender.  Of 100 women interviewed in this age group, the reasons appear to be very consistent about wanting to end the marriage.  85% stated that they had in their youth been those most likely to have demonstrated about the war in Vietnam or been part of the feminist movement.  Some describe themselves as the  bra burning fun loving girls of the 60’s who saw themselves as creators of a new era and new world.  Having settled down and had families, they became for the most part suburban, but that yolk seemed to have fallen away when their children left home permanently. 
 
They were suffering empty nest syndrome, a term invented by psychologists to describe the emptiness of not feeling wanted or needed any longer by their offspring.  Many said that turning to their long term partners proved to be disappointing.   They described that the husbands suddenly felt confused by the neediness that they were experiencing from their wives and instead of working together to save the marriage, were drawing apart. 
 
Suddenly instead of enjoying past-times together they found that more often they were undertaking activities apart.  Gradually holidays were taken separately, sexual contact ground to a halt and the marriages came to an end. 
 
Some stated that they realised for the first time that they really only had the children in common and that when they went, so did the marriage.  About 15% described the curmudgeon attitude of their husbands as they grew older who they described as just wanting to stay in and watch television and moan about their ailments.  This group said that they still wanted to do things and create, whereas they saw their husbands or partners as just wanting to retire and play golf.
 
Of the 100 men interviewed, they fell into two distinct categories.  Those who were happy to trade in their wives for younger versions and to have a wazzy sexual and social life regardless of the disparity in ages of their new partners, and those who felt mystified at the strangers that their wives appeared to have become. 
 
Some described their wives as going from homemakers to highfliers with little time now left for them.  Others resented the clawing nature of some of their wives once the children had left home, commenting that they had not been like this before and were probably menopausal!
 
For a practice like mine, it is imperative that we discuss the possibility of a reconciliation as the first step to see if these marriages can be saved with the right counselling.  It is important that the couples go to a couples’ counsellor with whom they can identify.  We have a bank of specialists for this purpose and for all kinds of marital problems.
 
If the parties proceed with divorce, the starting point for settlements where they have had long marriages is a 50:50 split of the capital and if the wife is not working or has no earning capacity, ongoing maintenance for either joint lives or until the husband’s retirement.  In addition there is more likely to be an equalisation of the pension on divorce.  These cases are all about information gathering together with the client so that nothing is left out of the equation.
 
Again, it does depend on the financial circumstances of the parties, but after this length of marriage in the middle to high range bracket the financial affairs can be complex.  From the wife’s perspective it is about knowing enough about the husband’s finances so that the correct questions can be raised to establish what really is in the matrimonial pot for division.  From the husband’s perspective it is about minimising the impact of any divorce settlement and where possible to try and invoke a clean break settlement i.e., where capital is divided to provide for the wife’s needs to end the wife’s maintenance claims.  It is particularly so when the husband wishes to remarry and possibly even start a new family.
 
Problems
 
Some of the problems that we find in these kind of cases are if the parties have worked together in a family business or partnership in dividing up the assets.  The first issue to establish is whether or not one of them wishes to continue in the business and if so how this can be achieved fairly.  One obvious solution in this scenario is perhaps if the husband wants to continue in the business then he will have to pay the wife maintenance out of the profits.  This does have a certain attraction in that a formula can be reached whereby the wife perhaps can continue to receive some dividends rather than the husband having to pay the wife out of taxed income.
 
Other problems can arise if the parties have set aside monies to provide for their children to have homes.  Unless the monies have actually been transferred and the purchases made in the children’s names, technically those assets form part of the matrimonial pot for division.  It is vital in these cases that the parties work together to decide whether they still wish the children to have the capital and the home or whether the parties needs must be met first in dividing the capital.   
 
Other problems in this group can surround the fact that many grandparents in this age bracket may have been providing funds to pay for their grandchildren’s education.  Was this a joint decision or not and should this continue?
 
Quite often the parties in this age bracket may have built up some investment properties.  The issues here are:-
 
(a) Not to allow too long a period of separation which might cause a capital gains tax problem to arise, or;
 
(b) Working out who wants to keep which property or in the event of a sale what is the correct time to do so.
 
Divorces in this category are like a minefield and must be carefully thought through to see what is trying to be achieved.  In this group there is least likely to be ringfencing of pre-marital assets.
 
However a word of warning for a newly emerging divorcee in this group:-
 
1. Do be very careful not to involve yourself immediately in a rebound relationship with someone who will take advantage of your naivety in relation to monies, or;
 
2. If you are savvy with monies, then be careful in whom you invest and ensure that you spread the risk.
 
3. In the case of our male clients, be careful that you are not targeted by unscrupulous women who are looking to improve their lifestyle by way of marriage or a relationship with someone in this particular group.  Flattery can be lovely, but can also be double edged when you are being targeted.
 
Vanessa Lloyd Platt is the proprietor of Lloyd Platt & Company Limited which firm represents many celebrities in the world of television, radio and entertainment as well as Judges and MPs.  The firm also represents men and women from all walks of life.
 
Vanessa Lloyd Plattgraduated from University College London with a LLB (Hons) in Law after initially studying Philosophy.  She completed her training in the legal profession with a media orientated practice in Central London, dealing with matrimonial and criminal law.
 
She opened her specialist matrimonial practice, Lloyd Platt & Company in 1992 from which time the firm has rocketed.  Each successful case has added to her client base.  The firm has been involved in several leading and ground breaking divorce and cohabitation cases and continues to campaign about many important family issues including Fathers rights for contact and pushing for changes in the law relating to cohabitation and the law relating to pre and post nuptial agreements.
 
In October 2013 she was voted Family Law Commentator of the Year.
 
Professional Societies: The Family Law Association (now known as Resolution); Member of the Family Law Panel; Mediator with the MA; Member of the Law Society.
 
Vanessa Lloyd Platt © 21st July 2014
 

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