21 May 2020
Taking into account the Covid-19 pandemic, is this the right time to start or progress your divorce?
Elizabeth Ford, who is a Director and Solicitor specialising in Family Law at Phillips Solicitors incorporating Brain Chase Coles and an Accredited Family Mediator with Haymarket Family Mediation, here provides information for those looking to separate or divorce during the Covid-19 lockdown including the financial impact of the coronavirus lockdown and some practical advice.
The impact of uncertain property values
There is a great deal of uncertainty about the value of properties which could affect your divorce during Covid-19. Although the property market has now re-opened, it will be a while before the effect on property prices is known. This could make it difficult to accurately value property and potentially risky to compare it with another asset in the financial settlement.
Pensions are difficult to value during this Covid-19 pandemic
Pensions have also been affected because many are invested in the stock market. Depending on how a pension has been invested, the value could have gone down but it could also have increased. Specialist advice from a pension advisor or actuary is often invaluable but is likely to be even more important because of the uncertainty valuing a pension and, once again, the risks of ‘off-setting’ a pension against savings or another asset.
Reduced earnings might affect the financial settlement of your divorce during Covid-19
Many people are furloughed or have seen a reduction in their earnings; other businesses are experiencing unusually high demand. Your income and your spouse’s income now might not be a true reflection of how much you are likely to earn in the future. This could affect the amount of spousal or child maintenance that seems to be reasonable for one person to pay to the other. There is a risk that, once the crisis has passed, one person might find themselves paying more or receiving less than they should.
Business values might have increased or reduced due to Covid-19
The pandemic will impact the value of businesses; either up or down. If your business has reduced in value, this could work to your advantage but it is likely that your spouse will want to delay until the crisis has passed if she or he is seeking to use the value of the business as part of the negotiations.
Does the Covid-19 pandemic mean divorces cannot happen?
On a more positive note, many people are finding that they have more time during the pandemic which can give them a greater opportunity to source the financial documents needed or indeed to consider the many options that may be available to deal with the financial aspects of the separation. Much groundwork could be done now in preparation for future discussions which will save time later.
In the event that there are court hearings, the family court is still operating. We at Phillips are able to access the most up to date information about how the court is dealing with each hearing, whether that is by telephone, Skype, Zoom or other remote options. The court can still deal with the issue of new applications for divorce, for financial provision or for child arrangements. Cases are simply taking a little longer than usual.
We are here to help you with your divorce during Covid-19
Can you get legal advice? Yes! It is more important than ever to make sure that you get specialist advice about timing and the steps that you can take to advance your case.
Phillip is open for business as, although we cannot see clients in the office, our remote working facilities enable us to meet with you remotely and manage your case largely by email and telephone.
We know that the decision to start divorce proceedings can be a hard one and never more so than if you are living in the same house during lockdown. We will aim to support you to maintain an amicable relationship with your ex-spouse to ease these difficulties as much as possible.
Now could also be an excellent opportunity to consider family mediation to help keep some communication between you – we can provide details of local mediation services and can continue to support and advise you alongside the mediation process.
Alternatively click here to go to our contact page.
This article is current at the date of publication set out above and is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.
Please call us or email and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
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