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Is there a link between the cost of living crisis and divorce
There has been an increase in number of divorces and
dissolutions over the past few months. In this time the cost of
living has also risen sharply. But is the cost-of-living crisis
really causing couples to want to divorce?
What causes a couple to separate?
For most separating couples, divorce or civil partnership
dissolution is not something that is entered into lightly and often
is the result of much heartache, discussion and self-reflection.
Often the decision to separate is not down to one identifiable
reason but many.
It is probably true to say that many couples experience money
problems at some stage in their relationship, and in our experience
it features in the top ten reasons couples cite when deciding to
divorce/dissolve their civil partnership. However, it often is not
the principle of having less money that is the main issue, but
rather when a couple aren’t on the same page about their
joint and sole finances. For example, if one spouse/civil partner
is spending excessively and racking up debts.
The other reasons clients tend to give us when they explain
their decision to separate include (but are not limited to) feeling
like they have drifted apart/have nothing in common, lack of
communication, feeling unhappy, adultery, experiencing abuse,
addiction, different parenting styles, no longer finding a partner
attractive and cultural issues.
Separating during times of uncertainty
During periods of financial uncertainty, it is not uncommon for
unhappy couples to speak to a family lawyer to consider their
options. Sometimes the financially stronger party might think it is
prudent to divorce when valuations for their assets are at their
lowest in order to minimise their liability in the financial
Conversely, the financially weaker party might consider
divorcing when valuations for assets are higher. However, there is
not an ideal time to get divorced. These theories are often not
borne out. For example, if house prices are low, less may be
realised for the family home on a sale. However, this might be
mitigated because the property market is also depressed. Similarly,
if the property market is booming more might be achieved for the
family home, but it is likely prices will be high when purchasing
When dividing assets, the Court and lawyers are looking to
ensure that everyone’s needs are met – that means
ensuring housing and income needs, both now and in the future, are
met. There are no winners and losers when it comes to divorce or
dissolution. There is a finite amount of money to be shared and
cases where there is less available capital tend to be harder to
resolve, as it is more difficult to meet both party’s needs.
Inevitably, for many, divorce prompts a drop in the standard of
living experienced during the marriage, which can be a bitter pill
to swallow for many, especially if it is not their decision to
leave the marriage.
Some couples do delay getting divorced in times of financial
crisis – we only have to look at the divorce statistics
following the 2008 economic collapse to see the decrease. A common
reason cited is that legal proceedings are expensive.
However, the cost of divorce or dissolution can be minimised if the
parties can reach agreement either between themselves, through
mediation, or after a short period of negotiation between
solicitors. That is not to hide from the fact the
divorce/dissolution process is an expense outside of the usual
living costs, no-one ever budgets to get divorced.
It is those spouses/civil partners with unrealistic expectations
in terms of outcome who tend to lose sight of the bigger picture.
They can become bogged down in the “fight” and end up
spending lots of money on lawyers (whilst not necessarily following
their advice!). This only ever results in a pyrrhic victory.
So, do we think the cost-of-living crisis will result in more
divorces? In short, no.
Whilst it may put a strain on many couples, the reasons for
divorcing cannot be reduced to the cost-of-living crisis alone. The
recent increase in divorce numbers is more likely to be a result of
the April 2022 ‘no fault divorce’ reforms and couples
wishing to separate amicably without apportioning blame. We predict
that this increase in divorce will flatten out over the course of
It is important to remember, as a rule of thumb in avoiding
unnecessary expense, that it is less about the timing and more
about the approach to separating that is most important factor to
consider. Divorce and dissolution do not have to be a huge
expensive fight and there are often better ways to resolve conflict
than going to court.
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.
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