The Gates’ separation reflects a trend for divorce amongst over-60s

The most interesting thing from a Family Lawyer’s perspective about the announcement that Bill and Melinda Gates are divorcing is not the scale of their wealth, but rather that it reflects a growing trend for older parties to separate.

This is of course a natural corollary of people marrying later in life. But it also reflects the interplay of people living longer generally and thereby facing longer lives post-retirement. If you have another 20-30 years ahead of you when you retire, many people ask themselves whether they in fact want to spend those years with their (current) spouse.

I regularly advise men and women in their 60s and 70s as to their relationship breakdowns, and have acted for clients well into their late-80s. On the whole the issues facing them are the same as for any of my clients – a wish for things to be better in the future, and balancing the twin pressures of emotional and financial security.

Issues as to child arrangements are less often a feature in such cases, but that does not mean that children are irrelevant. Even when the children are themselves adults, divorcing parents remain concerned at the emotional impact upon their families. Financially, rather than payment of child maintenance, or budgeting for school fees, more pertinent are issues of estate planning. Separation and divorce are always a sensible time to review Wills and take advice from Private Client lawyers – divorcing later in life such advice is essential.

Good financial advice is also key – particularly if you’re not a silicon valley billionaire. I will regularly advise my older clients to take an early consultation with a financial advisor. A couple’s financial resources may be large or small, but if they are separating close to or during retirement they are more likely to be fixed. There is simply less prospect of increasing the asset base or diversifying income streams when an older couple split. Sensible financial advice and expert projections and budgeting are therefore essential.

A grey social revolution is under way with people in their late 50s and 60s increasingly leaving marriages just when they’re expected to be most settled.