Breaking down the cost of heartache: divorce and the over 60s

Holly Thomas / 19 August 2013 ( 06 July 2016 )

Older couples are increasingly filing for divorce, according to the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics.

While the overall number of divorces has been falling since the mid-1990s, the number of over-60s filing for divorce has soared.

In 1991, there were 404,000 divorced people aged 60, a figure which increased threefold to 1.3 million by 2010.

A spokesman at the ONS said: "As it becomes more common to be divorced, there are fewer stigmas attached."

The growth in the number of working women also appears to make divorce more likely. In 1971 barely half of women aged 16 to 64 were in work, but by 2012 it had reached two-thirds.

While it is a new lease of life for many, the cost of reaching a financial agreement can run into tens of thousands. The average couple is nearly £30,000 poorer after legal costs are added up, according to Aviva, the insurer.

With solicitors charging anything between £100 and £500 an hour plus VAT, couples have a clear financial incentive to strike a swift agreement.

How does getting divorced affect your pension pot?

DIY divorce

If you can agree the finances between you then it will reduce the cost drastically.

Since April 1 2013, legal aid has been removed from divorce and custody cases. It is now restricted to only the most serious cases, where people are at risk of domestic violence, or face having their children taken into care.

More people are already opting to arrange their own divorce where they can agree on the reasons for the split and how they will divide the money, property and possessions.

The website offers a DIY online service that lets you initiate your divorce petition for £37, or you can have all the necessary forms sent to the court on your behalf for £67.

The Co-operative also offers a divorce service ( legalservices/) for £118.80.

If you do go for a DIY divorce, you will also have to pay court fees of £550 to lodge the petition.

But if you own a property, or have significant assets, (or custody issues with children) these websites are almost certainly not the right route.

Find out how to protect your assets during divorce...

Financial agreement

Around two-thirds of divorces involve a financial order to share out assets, such as property and pensions. The split is generally agreed between the former partners or their solicitors who can draw up the paperwork. The agreement is then rubber stamped by a court and anything in that agreement must be honoured.

Avoiding legal battles will save you thousands of pounds. If you're finding communicating with your partner difficult, using a mediation service to resolve your issues is much cheaper than going to court.

Since April 2011 all couples in England and Wales whose marriages break up must first consider mediation — where an independent legal professional helps a couple divide assets before turning to the courts.

Using mediation takes about a quarter of the time that going through the divorce courts does and can be eight times cheaper, according to the Ministry of Justice.

One of the most complex issues is dividing pension funds. The two most common ways in which pensions can be shared on divorce are through an attachment order or a pension-sharing order. This is one area where it can pay to get advice.

Finding a solicitor

It helps to get a recommendation from a friend or family member when it comes to choosing a solicitor to help you with your divorce. Alternatively you can search for one through the Law Society website at

Get them to talk you through all the fees at the outset to avoid nasty surprises. Some will offer a fixed fee, others will charge as they go.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.