Posted by Julia Robson on 13th November 2023
The unspoken complexities of marriage breakdown: Meryl Streep and Don Gummer announce divorce

While divorcing at any age is a difficult process, for older couples like Meryl Streep and Don Gummer—who recently announced their separation after 45 years—the stakes and complications can be different. The couple, who tied the knot in 1978 and have four children and five grandchildren, stated that they’ve been separated for more than six years and have now “chosen lives apart.”

Why older couples like Streep and Gummer separate

According to the Office of National Statistics, the average age for divorce has been increasing year on year. This trend, termed ‘grey divorce,’ often happens for reasons ranging from growing apart due to divergent hobbies and social circles, to finding less in common once the nest is empty. People are also living longer lives, making the idea of spending decades more with the same person a significant decision.

Financial implications: Pensions and assets

For younger couples, issues often revolve around children and property, but for those in the later stages of life like Streep and Gummer, pensions become a key focus. Pension sharing can equalize the financial footing between spouses, especially if one spouse has taken time off work for family care and thus has a smaller pension pot. Other assets, including the family home, may also need to be considered carefully, given that older couples are often closer to retirement and have fewer income-earning years ahead of them.

Family considerations: Adult children and inheritance

The welfare of children takes precedence in younger divorces, but even for couples with adult offspring, family matters. Streep and Gummer’s four children may be grown, but considerations may still arise, such as inheritance or ongoing support for adult dependents with special needs. This becomes even more critical if either party plans to remarry, where a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement might be wise to preserve the children’s inheritance.

Alternatives to Court: Collaborative Law

Couples like Streep and Gummer who wish to maintain amicable relationships may benefit from methods like Collaborative Law. This approach allows divorcing parties to resolve financial matters respectfully without court involvement, providing more control over the timeline and discussions.

The role of a divorce lawyer

In later-life divorces, the support of experienced family lawyers is invaluable. Lawyers who are members of Resolution adhere to a code of conduct that promotes a constructive approach to divorce and separation, ensuring that the right decisions are made for everyone involved.

For those going through a divorce later in life, the journey is filled with unique challenges and considerations. But, as Meryl Streep and Don Gummer seem to show so far, it is possible to approach this life change in a way that is respectful and mindful of both parties’ needs and wishes.

For more guidance on navigating the complexities of later-life divorce, contact Julia Robson, an experienced family law solicitor and collaborative lawyer at The Family Law Company’s Plymouth office at: 01752 674999 or via email at [email protected].

Need some advice? Get in touch today

Julia Robson is a Senior Associate Solicitor at The Family Law Company. She supports clients through all aspects of family law but with a particular specialism in high-asset value Divorce and Finance cases.

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