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As Autumn appears around the corner and schools can hopefully resume, 2020 has proven a year for reflection for many people.  Decision making has been forced on us as a result of COVID and the many restrictions the pandemic has brought.  Equally, it has been a time for personal reflection and whether aims and aspirations that were once more than adequate are not at one with this new normal. 

As a Family Lawyer I am seeing more clients admit that with the stresses of lockdown, an already fragile relationship, has crumbled under the pressure.  Business income might have reduced or ceased or personal income being badly impacted.  Money problems can cause marital breakdown especially if a family unit has never before suffered financial hardship.   

Divorce work has its particular challenges at present.  Assets can be difficult to value, income streams can be far from constant and the availability for housing for a party or parties to move to are almost non-existent if there is not the income to convince a lender to lend.  Pension pots have fluctuated and savings have been raided. 

However, clients appreciating all these factors will still need to make progress as once a decision has been made to part, it is vital that the legalities are addressed.  To do nothing is often not an option and can be extremely dangerous leaving one or both parties somewhat vulnerable. 

Some common dilemmas are: 

  • Who pays the mortgage and the bills if only one person lives in a property and that party has a modest income? 
  • How are the housing costs of the other party to be addressed? 
  • Could a specialist broker or financial advisor help secure funding for a fresh mortgage and might that release capital to allow the departing spouse to address their housing need? 
  • Could a pension pot be used tax efficiently to raise funds? 
  • If a family business is involved, how should that business be restructured if one party is desperate to leave? 

Undoubtedly, specialist legal advice will be required and often a paper trail of evidence proves necessary if negotiations are to be constructive at a time when suspicion is high. 

It is often so easy to think that DIY measures can be adopted with an agreement written out effectively on the back of an envelope.  Such “agreements” can easily be revisited particularly if one party wishes to be bound by that agreement and the other does not.  It is so worthwhile taking preliminary advice from a specialist and direction can be injected into an agreement and discussions can be measured against what a Court might or might not be prepared to do if terms cannot be reached.   

The tax implications of separation and divorce are vital to understand particularly if one party is to remain in the property and the other is to leave.  An unnecessary tax bill could be triggered if an agreement is not reached and properly documented for the purposes of the Revenue. 

If you have any questions, or would like to discuss further, speak to one of our specialist Family Law solicitors on 01244 310 022 or at law@jolliffes.com