Lockdown and strong housing market spur separations

Divorce cases are soaring across the country according to experts. The Citizens Advice Bureau says online searches for “Getting a divorce” are up 25%, while law firms across the UK are reporting significant increases in separation enquiries.

Lancashire law firm Vincents Solicitors has seen calls from people wanting to separate increase more than ten-fold in some weeks. And it’s not just divorce and dissolution of civil partnerships, but more and more co-habiting couples wanting to separate and needing to understand their legal position.

Mark Mosley, head of Vincents’ family law department, said: “The easing of lockdown coincided with one of the usual peaks in separation enquiries, that’s the end of the school summer holidays. Unfortunately for many couples, spending more time together only serves to reveal or confirm problems within the relationship.

“The extended period spent together during lockdown - often in stressful circumstances while working from home, homeschooling children, or being unable to leave the building for health reasons - has exacerbated problems in relationships more than ever.

“A lot of the people I’m talking with are not angry with each other; there’s not the usual acrimony and there’s certainly no discernible rise in adultery cases, it’s more an acknowledgement that they have grown apart and want to move on with their lives.”

The rise of a global pandemic, its health and economic implications are also playing a part in the ending of relationships.

“Money worries, job insecurity and health problems can impact a relationships success, and I think we’re seeing some of those factors really starting to affect people. And there’s also the current strength of the housing market having a bearing on the timing of some cases.

“We know the financial implications of separation can be a barrier to couples who might continue with the relationship because they can’t afford to split up. So the ability to sell their property for a good price while values are on the up and the potential to save on two sets of stamp duty fees, could see couples who have been wanting to move on for some time, or who have actually been separated for years, finally make the decision to go ahead with proceedings.”

In addition to divorce cases and dissolution of civil partnerships, both of which have clear legal structures to follow, Vincents has also been contacted by many co-habiting partners.

“Co-habiting couples are not protected by the same laws as those who are married or in a civil partnership. Most of these enquiries relate to what claims can be made on a property or a pension, and what arrangements can be made for the children.

“People often erroneously believe that if they’ve been together for a long time that they have more rights than they actually do, particularly if they have a shared mortgage or children together. But there is no such thing as a ‘common law marriage’ and that’s one of the reasons we encourage couples to arrange a formal Co-habitation Agreement, nicknamed the No-Nup, to protect themselves.

“Regardless of the situation, if a relationship has broken down it is likely that people will benefit from some legal support. Even where separations are reasonably amicable, having a legal expert in your corner is useful to ensure the finances are sorted fairly and appropriate arrangements are made for the children, providing the reassurance needed for couples to move on confidently with their lives apart.”

For an informal discussion about any of the matters discussed here, please contact Mark Mosley, head of the Family Law Team at Vincents Solicitors.
Telephone 01772 205404