The last few decades have been tremendously disruptive to the long-established notions of British family life.

Technology has proven to be something of mixed blessing, allowing more and more flexible communication yet being mined for the sort of evidence which can bring marriages to the point of collapse.

Our understanding of the concept of “family” has also undergone a great shift. Whereas, not so long ago, marriage between men and women was the norm and anything else taboo, an increasing proportion of couples live together and raise children together without ever exchanging vows.

One recent change continues to generate significant impact.

A rise in middle-aged divorcees - the now-fabled “silver splitters” - has resulted from a rush of spouses keen to break from the restrictive social norms of their antecedents by exiting unhappy marriages once have children grown up and left the family nest.

More than a surge in foreign travel and remarriage, there has been another consequence: pension aged Baby Boomers having babies of their own.

One notable case is that of the Rolling Stones' guitarist Ronnie Wood who recently announced that he was to become the father of twins with his 37-year-old wife, Sally (

Wood, who is 68, has found himself something of a celebrity standard bearer for a group of older men becoming fathers.

While the news is undoubtedly wonderful proof that Wood can live up to the title of one of his band's most famous tracks and 'Not Fade Away', there are implications - both positive and negative.

They include both the practicalities, such as the strain which raising children places on an individual and a relationship. Although I wish the couple well, the many divorces handled my colleagues and I handle llustrates the toll exacted by becoming a parent on partnerships of people who are much younger, let alone those in their sixties.

The older someone is, the more difficult comparatively routine tasks, such as those involved in raising a child, may become. For those who are entitled to claim a pension before their sons or daughters are even born, the challenge is all the greater.

If relationships do not last, can a pensioner be asked to meet all of the financial commitments of divorce, including spousal and child maintenance, which someone younger might expect to make?

Of course, the flip side of that is the experience which age provides. Working life, whether as a touring rock idol or in a rather more mundane profession, can take fathers and mothers away from their homes and their growing children.

Having fewer commitments and a slightly slower pace of life can allow someone to be a more hands-on parent to children born later, something which is to the benefit of all.


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