Economic Climate Forcing Unhappy Couples To Make Big Decisions

Financial Worries ‘Impacting On Separation Process’


A growing number of married couples are choosing to call time on their relationships before the economic climate takes a greater toll on their finances, a family law specialist has revealed.

The current financial conditions in the UK mean many couples are more than ever reliant on each other’s incomes to meet the day-to-day cost of living, owning a property and saving for retirement.

However, Alison Hawes, a Partner in Irwin Mitchell’s Bristol-based family law team, has revealed that while a number of people may have previously planned to see out the economic storm before separating, they are now rethinking such a plan.

She explains: “The current economic climate has fuelled a growing feeling of uncertainty within many struggling relationships, where couples are becoming increasingly fearful that they may not be able to afford to split from their partner if they wait any longer.

“We have seen people who have previously said they will make seeing out the credit crunch their last joint effort essentially take a U-turn and decide to make the break now before their financial situation gets potentially worse.”

Alison adds there is already evidence, for some, that they have reached a point of no return and have made provisions to stay together purely due to their financial situations.

“The past five years have seen many couples hit by the simple fact that the value of their home has fallen drastically, while the decision of banks to continue to restrict lending has also had an impact,” she outlines.

“Because of this, some people do not feel now is the time to split, as such a move would see their standard of living transformed. Some people may need to re-enter the world of work and others might have to delay their retirement plans.

“Such reasons are why we have seen couples decide that separation is simply unaffordable and, instead, they have put in place agreements to continue to live under the same roof as amicably as possible – perhaps with deals related to equal use of space or rooms.”

Alison adds that these changing trends related to separation and divorce also highlight how important it is for couples planning to marry to think about whether they should make use of a pre-nuptial agreement.

She says: “The stress and strain of relationship breakdown is hard, but twinned with financial worries it can be a hugely difficult issue to approach.

“While some may regard pre-nups as unromantic, it is clear that a legally-binding agreement could be a vital tool in ensuring an amicable and fair separation should the worst happen.

“As well as allowing couples to ground their relationship on a solid agreement, it may also make the process of separation in difficult economic times a little less convoluted and stressful.”