“There was nothing scandalous, we just drifted apart – something which became very obvious when our youngest child left home in 2019,” says Liz, who has chosen not to share her surname for privacy reasons.
“I wanted to travel the world – something I’d put off while raising our family, and my ex-husband was happier playing tennis at the local club. We were two housemates coexisting together and we both knew that it would be better in the long run for us to separate.”
Elisabeth Shaw, chief executive of Relationships Australia NSW says that becoming empty nesters is a common period of life for grey divorces to be initiated.
“At this stage, conversations about how the couple might spend their child-free years come up, and also their picture of retirement. It can be a time when they realise their dreams have become different, and for some, can’t be reconciled,” she says. “They can find being home together leads them to face their differences in confronting ways.”
Other common instigators of grey divorce include retirement, family violence, infidelity and financial issues, says Adrian Curtis, principal lawyer for Australian Family Lawyers.
“Post-retirement can be a major trigger for divorces. We saw this during the COVID-19 lockdowns, as well,” says Curtis.
“Huge changes to lifestyles have a big impact on relationships, so when norms change – such as both parties now being home all the time – this can change the roles each party has in a relationship and lead to new tensions and stressors.”
Grey divorce also has its own unique set of financial complexities and challenges that distinguish it from younger divorces, says Curtis.
“Typically, the asset pools are higher, owing to greater equity in the properties owned by the parties. The income of the parties may also be greater, due to time in the workforce. Alternatively, for post-retirement couples, the income may be far less. It is not unusual for these couples to be asset-rich, but with very low cash flow. The lower cash flow can have a dramatic impact on the way that separation occurs.”
Property settlement, unequal financial positions (which statistically disadvantage women), inheritance and superannuation are issues Curtis says those in grey divorces face, which can create serious complications and have a long-lasting impact on those involved.
Grey divorce can take its toll emotionally, says Shaw. “While some might leave a relationship and feel hopeful about an alternative path, their partners can react very differently. Some feel devastated and like they have almost no options.”
While Liz and her ex-husband have remained on good terms throughout the divorce, she still found the experience challenging.
“Being alone and single in my sixties is not at all what I had envisioned. The adjustment is difficult,” she says. “It is like having someone close to you die: you go through grief, saying goodbye to someone, at least in the way you had always known them.”
In a joint statement shared with People, Jackman and Furness wrote: “We have been blessed to share almost three decades together as husband and wife in a wonderful, loving marriage. Our journey now is shifting and we have decided to separate to pursue our individual growth.”
Liz is also looking forward to new adventures as a single woman.
“I know I have many other opportunities in life to experience and that doing this on my own terms will bring me joy.”
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