Social networking sites partly to blame for increase in couple splits over 55yo

July 10th, 2014

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ONLINE networking, empty nest syndrome and an increasing acceptance of separation are driving up the number of “grey divorces” in South Australia, experts say.

Adelaide law firmssay the number of divorces by couples over 55 has significantly increased.

Family Law specialist at Adelaide’s Tindall Gask Bentley, Jane Miller, said her firm was dealing with an increase of almost 40 per in divorce cases in this age category during the past four years.

“We are starting to see more divorces from people that age and above because it is becoming more accepted in society on the whole,” she said.

“Rather than staying together and unhappy, like the generation before them might have, it is now much more acceptable to separate.”

Ms Miller said separation might have a big impact on mental wellbeing and could be confronting for the bank balance.

“When you split assets that people have worked very hard for and for a very long time it can be quite distressing and the lifestyle that a couple is used to can be seriously affected.”

Principal of Adelaide Lawyers Nick Greer said his firm was also dealing with a significant increase in divorce cases.

And he said that number would be even greater if divorce paperwork was not seen as so expensive.

“The lodging fee for divorces is now $800 — which is a significant deterrent to people actually applying for divorces now,” he said.

“Unless someone is wanting to get remarried, we are finding many do not lodge a divorce application until they deem it necessary.”

Latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures reveal divorce rates are on the rise, up two per cent since 2011, with a total of 49,917 Australians – including 3,511 South Australians – splitting from their partners in 2012.

The results show a gradual increase in the median age at separation and divorce since 2007.

People aged between 40 to 44 had the highest percentage of divorces granted, with 16.9 per cent of males and 17.6 per cent of females granted a divorce in this age group in 2012.

UniSA senior lecturer of clinical psychology Dr Nadine Pelling said older people were getting much more techno-savvy and often were tempted by friendships sparked on the internet.

“The grass always looks greener on the other side but you have to remember you are only seeing a part of people that they want you to see,” she said.

“Also, the population is getting older, people are living longer so couples might have 25 years or more left after the kids leave, instead of just a few years, so they have to think about loner-term happiness rather than just sticking it out.”

She said that she often speaks with couples who had decided to hold together until they were older as they did not want to rip the family fabric for their children and separate earlier.

Family Psychology and Mediator principal councillor Ian Richards agreed couples over 55 often felt it challenging to deal with the “empty nest” syndrome.

“The couple suddenly has to redefine who they are,” he said.

“It used to be all about the children then suddenly they look at each other and go ‘who are you’”.

Mr Richards said although initially a difficult transition, couples that decided to stay together often achieved great happiness together.