Financial worries are keeping older women trapped in unhappy marriages, according to a report from the Independent.
In the under-45 age bracket, women are most likely to push for a divorce, the newspaper said, but women become much less willing to push for a split as they get older.
The UK Office for National Statistics shows that in 2014, 9,443 men in their 60s filed for divorce compared to 5,783 women.
Legal experts say many older women have given up their career prospects in order to look after the family, which leaves them with no pension or savings of their own. Many women are surprised, they say, when they learn that they are entitled to a large percentage of the marriage’s assets as well as spousal support.
“When two people decide to divorce, one life must be divided into two. During that process many important decisions regarding property division, child custody and spousal and child support must be made,” explains Maxim-Law, a law firm that specializes in divorce and family law.
The Independent points out that women in their 50s and 60s may feel more vulnerable financially because the pay gap widens between men and women in their 50s. According to research from TUC, women in their 50s earn £8,504 less than men.
Older women often put off divorce due to financial concerns and lack of money to pay for the divorce.
But experts also warn that informal separation without divorce can also have negative consequences. Women who do not have the financial means for a formal divorce may leave and start a new life, but they are still bound to their spouse.
A recent case highlights the dangers of informal separation. A couple split in 1989 when their marriage fell apart a month after they said “I do.” They remained separated for 30 years.
After hiring an investigator, the wife found out that her estranged husband had died in 2011. She now is making a claim to some of his estate.
A judge ruled that because they were still legally married when the husband died, she has a legitimate claim. The case, lawyers say, highlights the financial dangers of informal separation.
Until divorced, separated couples have a right to enter and leave the marital home whenever they please. A couple’s finances are also linked until a divorce is finalized.
Wealth accumulated – or diminished – after the divorce also affects both parties.
Unless the couple is formally divorced, spouses have a right to make a claim against the estate of the deceased partner.