July 22, 2011

Is divorce at 40-year low due to financial reasons?

Legal fees for divorce, of up to £50,000, compounded by a difficult housing market, tough economic conditions and high levels of unemployment, are forcing couples in Yorkshire and across the country to continue living together despite ending their relationship.

A recent survey by Illicit Encounters, an introductions agency for people seeking extra-marital affairs, found that married couples have been put off divorce because they can’t afford to move out or pay for legal fees. And with the  Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) reporting another flat month for Yorkshire house sales in June and forecasting little improvement this year, for many unhappy couples caught in limbo, the prospect of being able to divorce and move on with their lives looks unlikely.

Research carried out in London by the agency found that 42 per cent were deterred by the cost of divorce. The scenario of unhappy couples forced to stay together because they cannot afford to divorce is also becoming increasingly common in Yorkshire and across the country.

Here at Jones Myers, though, our experienced team are used to guiding clients through the alternatives to the misery of enforced co-habitation. Collaborative law can often provide a better, cheaper and more efficient alternative to the traditional route to divorce through the courts. The emotionally charged forced co-occupation of a family home when a couple want to separate often creates negative feelings and a great deal of stress which then cascades down to any children involved.

Collaborative law can cut the costs of separation from a sky-high £50,000 down to £10,000 or even lower. It involves couples signing a contract at the beginning of the process saying that they want to work things through round a table, over a series of meetings and with minimum input from the courts. Not surprisingly, it’s growing in popularity.

With a collaborative divorce, all decisions about finances, children and assets are talked about together with solicitors and other relevant experts such as accountants, life coaches or children’s counsellors.

While it can take years to get a decree absolute, the process is much faster if you are willing to talk and the collaborative approach gives an incentive to talk. It takes away a lot of the hostility that can arise from misunderstandings when you are communicating through solicitors letters.