It is a job which has always required the skills of a diplomat, conflict negotiator, property expert and financial whizz all rolled into one.
The number of divorces rises when people turn 60 Photo: ALAMY
But divorce lawyers say their ability to defuse acrimony appears to be being put to the test more than ever before – because of the rise in so-called “silver-splitter” separations.
The problem, they say, is not the couple getting divorced themselves but their meddling adult offspring, often intent on protecting their own inheritance.
Those who decide to divorce in later life are more likely to have grown-up children who are, lawyers say, more likely to get involved, often making the process even more bitter and protracted.
Beverley Darwent, a partner in family law at Pannone Solicitors, said she and other colleagues had noticed a marked “pattern” in recent years, corresponding with the growth in over-60s heading to the divorce courts.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics last year showed that the number of older people getting divorced has almost doubled within a decade in England and Wales.
The influence of adult offspring routinely causes one or other party to the split to dig their heels in and raise their demands, she said.
Often they put pressure on parents to change their will to protect their share of the family assets from any future half brothers or sisters. Or they endless try to persuade their parents to get back together when the marriage is beyond rescue, simply delaying the inevitable and running up costs, she added.
In some cases they have been known to take matters into their own hands such as tracking down their father or mother’s new partner and bombarding them with angry or abusive messages by email or on sites such as Facebook.
She added that, even though adult children have no say in proceedings, she has at times had to hold meetings with them to explain the process in hope of defusing the acrimony.
“Regardless of the motivation, some of the adult children concerned often express quite forceful views which only serve to complicate their parents’ divorce, meaning that the process is even more distressing all-‘round and takes longer to resolve,” she said.
“One of the things they do is try to make contact with one of the parties’ new partner and try to be beastly to them.
“Some of them do resort to nasty emails or messages on Facebook.
“Particularly when trying to feather their own nests they will try to put pressure on the parents to alter their will, which won’t be effective because you could argue that there was undue pressure.”
While often the children’s motivation is simply a sense of shock or desire to preserve the family, it was clear in many cases that concerns about their future inheritance were a major consideration.
“You can tell that’s what they are thinking,” she said.
“Very few of them will actually articulate that but you can tell from the venom towards the new partner what their thinking is.”
SOURCE: The Telegraph