The incredibly difficult global situation being faced at the moment a result of the coronavirus pandemic has considerably amplified the strain that many married couples have experienced over the past few months.  The considerable pressure of lock-down coupled with working from home, often in far from ideal circumstances, and the additional issue of having to undertake home-schooling have all taken a toll and this year's "Divorce Day" (the first working Monday after the Christmas and New Year break) has seen a vast rise in internet searches by people seeking information regarding divorce.

Whilst the Office of National Statistics  (ONS) reports that the rate of divorce for heterosexual couples is dropping, divorce relating to older individuals is running at one in four. The latest ONS figures for 2017 found the divorce rate was highest for men aged 45-49 and women aged 40-44.  Unlike previous generations, people are no longer prepared to grit their teeth and stay in an unhappy marriage. 

Anyone who is thinking of starting divorce proceedings or whose partner has decided to end the marriage would be well advised to avoid making any instant decisions. Most people are in unfamiliar territory and their situation requires expert legal guidance to take you through the range of options open to you to protect your position. 

Daniel Theron, a partner, commented "often in the haste to separate, individuals can overlook the long term impact of divorce on their financial security. There is such a great deal to consider and understandably many people focus on the emotional consequences. We recognise that at such a difficult time our clients need sound advice to ensure that they achieve the best possible settlement for their future.  Older divorcing couples should consider their pension position more carefully" he further pointed out "even with substantial savings nobody knows how long the money will have to last and it is advisable to take proper advice on the whole range of aspects of divorce that will affect their post-divorce life."

Research carried out by Legal & General suggests that over a quarter of women renounce their rights to a share in their husband's pension when negotiating a divorce. Waiving such rights may significantly affect financial security in later life as women generally have smaller pensions than men, often half that of their former husband and as women's life expectancy is longer than that of men, women may often have to make any savings stretch quite a long way.  Sara McLiesh, CEO of Legal & General pointed out that only 3% of people embarking on a divorce take any financial advice. The family lawyers at Giambrone & Partners strongly recommend discussing the options with an experienced family lawyer who can take you through the legal and practical steps and guide you as to your best interests rather than rushing into an ill-advised decision driven by the turmoil of the situation. 

There will be several aspects of the family finances that will have to be clarified in order to have a proper idea of what would amount to a fair and equitable division of the family assets. Both parties will need to know not only the value of the family home but what is owed on a mortgage, what investments there may be which both parties have an interest, what any pensions are worth, what bank accounts both parties have and the daily living costs. There must be complete clarity on the assets of the marriage.  Every couple's situation and responsibilities are different and a family lawyer can help you deal with the legal and practical consequences of divorce.

It remains to be seen whether there will be a sharp increase in divorce when The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, the no-fault divorce, finally arrives in England and Wales.

The experienced lawyers in Giambrone's family team recognise that statistically over half divorcing couples are unsatisfied with their financial settlements. The best solution is to have honest and frank conversations, with the assistance of an expert family lawyer who can facilitate sensible communication during this exceptional situation.  It is always better to agree on a financial settlement than take the dispute to court, not only is it costly, it is far more likely that you will get a satisfactory financial agreement in this way than by a contested court hearing.  It must be remembered that in any division of assets it is likely that compromises will have to be made. If the marriage has been reasonably long the starting point is to be even-handed with the division of assets, there are a number of different factors that can cause a variation such as inheritances, expected or received.

The court should be the last option if it is absolutely impossible to find an amicable solution.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.