The Coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on most aspects of our lives, including the way we work and, to a certain extent, even the way we live. Many of us live under constant pressure, carrying out a full time job from home, whilst home-schooling our children. Some are in doubt as to whether they will even have a job when ‘normality’ resumes, whenever that may be. Property prices have fallen, as have the values of stocks and shares, which in turn has affected the value of many people’s pensions and private investments. Some of the current measures are likely to remain for the medium term and possibly even beyond.
For couples going through divorce and separation, the current situation has brought up yet more concerns and, in some cases, an increase of their legal fees as a result. There will no doubt be many couples who having recently reached a final settlement on divorce, are now starting to realise that the terms agreed a mere few weeks ago may now be unfair or, indeed, untenable.
The law in this country allows a final divorce settlement to be revisited and either varied or set aside in limited circumstances. Whether or not the impact of Covid-19 on individual’s finances and businesses is likely to be accepted by Courts throughout the country as enough on its own to grant the variation of a final settlement remains to be seen. This is something that will need to be considered on a case by case basis.
Some couples will be giving serious consideration right now to whether or not to apply for a divorce, either because of the breakdown of the relationship as a result of the added stress of the lockdown or because having been separated for some time, they want to ‘get on with things’ in anticipation of a relaxation of the confinement guidelines in the near future. Some people may want to hold back on any final settlement until the markets recover and the value of the assets increase to pre-Covid-19 levels, if they believe this is likely to happen, so that the value of what is available for division is higher. On the other hand, there will be other people who may wish to capitalise on the negative impact that the virus is likely to have in the short term, in the hope of reaching a more favourable settlement.
Clearly, each case is different. However, whatever the circumstances all parties going through divorce or looking at getting a divorce should ensure they receive adequate legal and financial advice to properly assess how the current crisis is likely to impact any terms of settlement, either agreed or yet to be negotiated.
For more guidance, contact Alma Nicol, Partner and Head of Family Law at Bonell & Co Solicitors, in Stratford upon Avon, on email@example.com or 01789 299 115.