The current cost-of-living crisis has seen soaring energy, food, fuel and interest rates, but has also seen an impact on divorce. Layla Babadi, senior associate in the family team at law firm Roythornes, considers the impact of the economic crisis on divorce and what couples should be aware of to reduce costs and strain during a separation.
“According to property site Zoopla, couples are being forced to live together for an average of 1.3 years after they split, with one in eight continuing to share a bedroom, due to financial constraints.
“When a relationship breaks down, there are emotional and financial implications, where eventually the household finances will need to be shared between two. Both sides will feel the pinch and with a cost-of-living crisis, the whole family is impacted.
“When you separate from your partner, you must navigate splitting your money, property, pensions, and debt. Fears about being worse off, coupled with the uncertainty around spiralling legal fees, might lead you to question whether you can afford to divorce given the current economic climate.
“The first thing to acknowledge is that since the introduction of the “no-fault” divorce in April 2022, the legal process has become much simpler. You can complete the paperwork yourself on the Government website and there is a £593 fee to pay. This works for couples who are splitting amicably or possibly have less complex reasons behind the split.
“However, the part that deals with how you split your finances is separate, and often what causes the most issues. This is where working with a solicitor can help you.
“It is worth noting that how you choose to sort out your money and property impacts how much your divorce will ultimately cost. For example, a court battle involving barristers and solicitors is likely to cost tens of thousands of pounds. On the other hand, if you and your spouse reach an agreement yourselves, then that agreement can be made legally binding by instructing a solicitor to turn your agreement into a consent order, for the court to approve. In this scenario the costs are considerably less.
“A second factor that may impact divorcing during the current crisis is timing. A common misconception is that the court will consider your financial position at the time you separated. However, courts look at your financial position as it is when you divorce, not separate. This may mean your financial position is very different at these two timestamps and could end up costing you more or complicating your tax position.
“However, perhaps the bigger consideration is the impact on your emotional health and the well-being of the wider family. It might be that despite tough economic conditions, the better long-term option for the family is for the parents to divorce, especially if there is a high conflict home environment. Financial difficulties and uncertainty will always add pressure to relationships, and if your marriage has already broken down it can make living conditions toxic.
“There is no simple or correct approach that suits all couples, which is why at Roythornes we give the right advice from the outset, to avoid costly errors having an impact on the final outcome. A crisis is tough for all, but we aim to reduce the stress and hardship involved.”
About Layla Babadi
Layla is a Senior Associate at Roythornes. She qualified as a solicitor in 2005. Layla is also a member of Resolution. Before joining Roythornes, Layla was a Legal Director at a leading East Midlands firm.
Layla specialises in divorce and separation, with a particular emphasis on international divorce law. She also advises on pre and post nuptial agreements and separation agreements.