Is The Cost of Living Crisis Affecting Divorce Applications?

In early January there are often reports of “Divorce Day”, which historically has been the first working day in the New Year when divorce enquiries have been known to rocket. Some couples do not want to disrupt the family home over Christmas so they wait until the festivities are over before seeking advice in respect of marriage breakdown. For others, the stress of spending prolonged periods with extended family or the financial pressure of Christmas is the final straw for their marriage and leads to them seeking legal advice in the New Year. However, is Divorce Day a thing of the past?

As anticipated, divorce rates shot up after the introduction of ‘no fault’ divorce in April 2022 but recent research suggests that this trend has not continued:

  • It was reported by Family Law Week this month that No Fault divorce applications are down 12% on a year ago;
  • Legal & General reported on 2nd January 2024 that 19% of divorces have been delayed due to ‘financial pressures’ while Co-Op Legal Services reported that in their survey, a similar 21% of people admitted to delaying divorce proceedings due to the impact it would have on their finances.

There are a number of financial factors that could affect the decision to commence a divorce and we are all aware of the impact that the cost of living crisis is having. It could be that couples wish to wait for their assets, such as the family home or savings and investments, to increase in value before they sell and divide the equity between them. Alternatively, it could be that, with inflation and high interest rates on mortgages, they cannot afford to buy and maintain two new homes with the same amount of money which previously kept just one household going. In Summer 2023, The Guardian reported that ‘birdnesting’ arrangements have increased, which is where the family home is retained and shared between former spouses on alternate weeks – perhaps another sign of the difficult financial consequences of separation? It may simply be that people feel they cannot afford legal advice and so either don’t deal with financial issues, or deal with them between themselves and without advice. The breakdown of a marriage is already an incredibly difficult and stressful experience but these factors are surely making it worse, not to mention prolonging being able to move forwards in life.

It is really important to deal with financial matters at the time of separation, rather than delaying this, and to have a legally binding agreement drawn up to ensure that no further (financial) claims can exist between you and your former spouse in the future. Many people do not realise this and are potentially causing themselves significant issues further down the line.

As Family Law practitioners, it is our responsibility to guide you through this difficult process and ensure that any agreement reached is fair to you and provides for you now and in the future. Every case is different and we will tailor our advice to your individual circumstances to ensure that you get the best possible outcome.

For more information on this article please feel free to contact us and speak to one of our friendly family team lawyers.