Participating in a recent webinar on the fascinating topic of the latest in family law superannuation decisions (it is fascinating!), I was reminded of a great line from an old family law case where the judge was obviously enjoying the writing of the judgement.
In that matter the husband was a police officer and the judge commented that the Husband was, “over the Force, over the kids and over the wife.”
It’s a great line — but it is also a really succinct description of what I see as some of the common elements in property settlements.
These days it doesn’t seem to be a 7-year itch that leads to divorce, the vast majority of my clients are “empty nesters”; couples who have been together 20, 30, or 40 years and decide to go their separate ways.
Sometimes it is a case that new retirement or impending retirement means that they turn their mind to the rest of their life in a way they haven’t previously. Or it may be that retirement these days means with superannuation they suddenly have access to more assets than ever before which can often inspire a thought of what am I going to do. That’s the “over the Force” concept - I'm over my job.
The other element in these “silver divorces” is that the children are no longer dependent — “over the kids”. For many of my “silver” clients (that’s referring to hair colour, not some family law frequent flyer status) it is as if they looked across the empty kitchen table and realised they had nothing in common with the person on the other side of the table.
There are lots of factors that make family law matters for more mature people a bit trickier. When you have been together a long time, the end of the relationship can be shattering, especially if the other party didn’t see it coming. The emotions of adult children can come into play. There’s a lot more history to take into consideration. The future can sometimes be a little bit more unpredictable.
Probably the most important factor for people in this age group is to make sure you get good advice and that the advice is structured specifically for your needs. Not the advice that suits your children (“we’ll put some of the assets in a trust for them”), not a settlement that tries to make amends for the past — either by punishing or being too generous. Take your time, think about your future and work with your lawyer to get the right settlement for you.