The impact of covid on divorce
Divorces on the rise
More than 100,000 opposite-sex couples applied for divorce in 2019 with data showing the largest annual percentage increase in separations in England and Wales in nearly 50 years. 1
It isn’t surprising then that lockdown and the attendant stresses of a national pandemic are likely to send divorce rates rocketing.
Citizens Advice claim that views of its divorce webpage increased by 25% in the first weekend in September during the second lockdown, compared with the same date in 2019.2 While divorce lawyers claim that inquiries rose by over 40% 3 after Christmas.
Tamsin Caine, a specialist financial planner at Smart Divorce, says that in her experience there has been an uptick in divorces recently but says
I think it has been twofold. Firstly, those who have experienced delays due to the initial lockdown, so more of a bunching effect. Secondly, where couples were having issues already, the restrictions have made those more problematic.
Their next port of call will be their financial adviser, not least because divorce doesn’t come cheap. Couples spend an average of £14,561 on legal costs when they break up. 4
Tamsin Caine says, “couples are looking for support in trying to get to a fair distribution of assets. We work with them to look at the options and how they will impact them. In terms of the individuals, they are looking for help to understand what their future finances look like.
The next step is to think rationally about priorities. “We ask them to think about what they want their post-divorce life to look like - if they are in a place to explore this - and often to think about their emotional well-being, which may need additional support.“
Most clients will automatically think about splitting the proceeds from their shared home. But that is not always the biggest slice of the pie.
According to Tamsin Caine, “Pensions are often the second largest marital asset and yet it is common to find couples saying they have agreed not to look at pensions.
We try to dissuade them from this approach. It is essential that there is a fair division around pensions. Couples often need the help of an actuary as well. Although they are commonly not minded to spend the additional fee, we strongly recommend they get this advice as it is essential in understanding what a fair split may look like."
It’s useful to know that to calculate the value of a client’s you need to look at the cash equivalent transfer value (CETV), which is calculated as if each party were about to leave their pension arrangements, though the rules differ slightly in Scotland.
Couples will also need to think seriously about their wills as they separate.
Indeed you might want to contact the legal representatives acting for both parties. Not only will this benefit your client, but it will also give you the opportunity to develop working relationships with a number of solicitors.