In January 2019 a number of media outlets reported the fact that thirteen people filed for divorce on Christmas Day in England and Wales. They were among 455 online divorce applications submitted between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day; 26 people submitted applications on Christmas Eve, 23 on Boxing Day and 77 on New Year's Day.

Whilst it has been possible to complete the divorce application process using the internet in England/Wales since April 2018, it is not yet an option available to separating couples in Northern Ireland. Solicitors however do experience an increase in enquiries relating to divorce at the beginning of the year. It is understandable that parties with children decide to hold off changing the dynamic within their household until post-Christmas, or that couples who have been separated for some time make it their new year's resolution to finalise arrangements that have been outstanding.

In 2020 with the global pandemic affecting our lives in a way unlike ever before, it is also understandable that this has had an impact on the number of divorcing couples. The stresses of strains of lockdown, as well as financial pressures and living life in a whole new way, have all been contributing reasons for people filing for divorce or seeking to financially separate from a partner. It seems inevitable that the repercussions of 2020 will also continue to have an impact going forward, and so an increase in the numbers of separating couples now, is likely to continue to be felt for quite a while.

Once you have made the decision to divorce there are a number of options available in order to finalise matters. Financial matters for example can be dealt with through the drafting of a matrimonial agreement. This is often an amicable solution and there is the advantage of it being more cost and time efficient. Once agreed it is made an order of the Court when divorce proceedings are being dealt with.

If agreement is not possible Court proceedings can be issued which has the benefit of the Court overseeing matters and being available to address issues which may arise. If the parties cannot reach agreement during this process, then the Court will decide what final order should be made. The financial arrangements are then carried out in accordance with the terms of this Court Order.

Regardless of which route is taken, the most common and substantial assets to be dealt with are usually the matrimonial home and pensions.

With property there are options for it to be sold with proceeds split between the parties, it can be transferred in full or in part to a party, or for example with the matrimonial home, a right to occupy can be granted to one party with ownership remaining joint.

Pensions are often viewed as being more complicated. A cash equivalent transfer value (CETV) is obtained to determine the cash value placed on pension benefits. There are then a number of options such as a pension sharing order, earmarking/attachment orders or offsetting which can be agreed in order to ensure fair settlement.

Whilst it may seem daunting dealing with financial matters we will work with you to make sure the process is clear.

Your renewed financial position at the end of any separation should always be considered in the context of your estate planning, and so it is important to remember to update your Will to reflect your new position once matters are concluded. Similarly, in the context of the global pandemic in particular, we encourage clients to consider their circumstances and planning for the future; our Private Client team is available to offer advice and assistance, as well as answer your queries.

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.