With couples cooped up in lockdown due to the coronavirus, law firms across the country have reported an increase in enquiries from spouses who are wanting to split from their partners.
But with the courts currently closed and the negative impact Covid-19 is having on the economy and housing market, is now a good time to get divorced?
Firstly, can I still get a divorce?
Many court staff and judges are working from home and hearings are being done remotely over the telephone or, in some cases, by video link, so it is still possible, but couples may experience delays.
This is because the courts are prioritising urgent cases, such as those involving domestic abuse or child protection.
However, in most divorce cases, a hearing is not needed. Couples will only have to go to court if disputes regarding financial matters or children cannot be resolved by the separated couple or their lawyers.
Financially, is now a good time to get divorced?
With the impact the Covid-19 pandemic is having on the economy, many people may find themselves in a financially less advantageous position.
Housing markets have come to a standstill, retailers, pubs, clubs and restaurants have temporarily ceased trading, and businesses will no doubt be tightening their belts in an attempt to persevere during these challenging times.
For some, however, a financial downturn could be seen as an advantage when it comes to divorce and securing a favourable financial settlement.
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, many assets may well have diminished in value. Businesses may not be considered as valuable, investments are likely to have suffered, and some pensions will now be worth less than they were only a few short weeks ago.
For the party to a marriage who is – or was prior to the pandemic – in a stronger financial position, the answer to the question “should I divorce now” might well be yes.
Hopefully, the economy will bounce back, as will the value of your assets, leaving you better off than if you had divorced in more stable times.
Can a financial settlement be renegotiated if coronavirus has made it unfair?
Although the timing might benefit you, it may not benefit your spouse, who is likely to object to a final financial settlement being reached until some form of normality has resumed.
Additionally, you should be warned that the unprecedented uncertainty brought about by Covid-19 will mean that the court will likely exercise extreme caution when making final orders, dividing the martial assets until the storm has passed.
Every case is different and it is important you seek advice tailored to your specific circumstances.
What happens if the family home struggles to sell?
At the end of March, the government suspended the housing market as estate agents closed their doors and banks withdrew deals.
As a result, homeowners trying to sell their properties saw the number of potential buyers decline. This, of course, could throw settlements into jeopardy and possibly increase a couple’s capital gains tax liabilities when they do end up reaching a deal.
About Emma Davies
Emma Davies qualified as a solicitor in 2008 and joined Nelsons’ family law team in 2009. She specialises in family law cases and advises on divorce and financial settlements that involve complex issues and substantial assets.
For more information on divorce and separation, please visit nelsonslaw.co.uk or call 0800 024 1976.
Nelsons was established in 1983 and provides support to businesses, individuals and families with their legal and investment needs.
Nelsons’ experience and depth of resource has also enabled them to offer services to other solicitors through Fusion Legal – a mutually-beneficial referrals and support network for law firms.
The firm is recognised by the leading, independently researched Legal 500 and is recommended by them in more than 20 practice areas.
The firm is recommended by Chambers and Partners and also features in The Lawyer’s UK 200 Annual Report of the UK’s largest 200 law firms. Nelsons has offices throughout the East Midlands in Nottingham, Leicester & Derby.