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Cost of living crisis may delay decision to divorce, warns London law firm

The cost of living crisis could be a reason for couples to delay divorce in order to secure a better financial settlement once assets recover, warns London law firm Payne Hicks Beach.

Lawyers at Payne Hicks Beach have said that with rising costs and gloomy economic outlook, the usual rise in divorce applications in the first few months of the year may not happen if the financial crisis of 2008 is anything to go by.

Rebecca Cockcroft, co-head of the Family Law team at Payne Hicks Beach, said:

“During the financial crisis of 2008 the divorce rate in the UK fell.  However, there were more divorces in 2010 than in 2008 and 2009, which may suggest that people delayed their response to the crisis until the immediate storm had passed.

“At present households are facing a significant increase in their outgoings and the idea of separating and stretching the available resources to fund two separate homes may be daunting.  Inevitably, following divorce most people will be worse off.”

Payne Hicks Beach points out, however, that there may be circumstances where waiting for the economic situation to improve in order to divorce isn’t possible and that in some cases there could be ways to go ahead with the divorce.

Kelly Gerrard, Legal Director at Payne Hicks Beach, says:

“To a certain extent, it depends on individual circumstances and will also vary from party to party. Bonuses in financial services are down which may mean for a high earning husband or wife it is more attractive to divorce when their earnings are depressed as they may secure a lower level of maintenance. Conversely, it may be better for their partner to wait until things improve so that they can argue that the other’s income is greater.

“While the value of investments and pensions may currently be depressed, there may be ways to resolve these issues now without waiting.  Although pensions in private sector schemes have suffered a 12% drop in 2022 pensions are usually divided in percentage terms, which leaves each party with the equal risk/ benefit of the pension decreasing or increasing in value in future.”

Family home

Many parents of small children wish the primary carer and the children to remain in the family home for as long as possible in order to provide the children with stability at an unsettling time.  With increased interest rates, rising utility costs and a higher cost of living this may no longer be affordable.

Cockcroft says:

“The court is duty bound to consider whether a clean break (essentially severing all future financial ties between the parties) is appropriate. Valuations of assets such as businesses and properties may be depressed making it more difficult to achieve a clean break.  If property prices are depressed it may be more viable for one party to retain the family home and buy out the other parties’ interest.

“If the parties are unable to retain the matrimonial home and are looking to each rehouse utilising their respective mortgage capacities, they face interest rates on those borrowings at around 5%.  For many, this may dramatically impact the level they are able to rehouse at.”

“Economic uncertainty can create a stressful and difficult environment for everybody. Adding divorce into the mix only increases the pressure and can be emotionally draining as well.”

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