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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Divorce rates falling. Time for a Merry Christmas?

I watched an interesting piece on BBC Breakfast news again this morning. The new figures for divorce are due out later and it is apparently anticipated that divorce rates will have fallen to the lowest levels since 1974.

There was a debate about the possible reasons for this – some saying that less people are getting married, or waiting until they are older to get married so they are more mature and sure that they have the right person.

Other suggestions were that in a time of economic decline, more people than ever are too afraid of how much it will cost if they split and so they are staying in unhappy marriages because they fear they have no alternative.

The divorce expert on the sofa confirmed her firm has seen a 30% increase in people wanting to find out about their options but that only a small proportion of these then actually go ahead. It is true that I have noticed that things are far “quieter” this year than any year I can remember (and I have been practising for 18 years!) in the sense that people contact us saying they know their marriage is over but fear committing to moving forwards.

There seem to be two aspects to this fear – firstly the fear of their ability to redistribute rapidly declining assets in such a way that they will be able to afford to start again. Unfortunately, with house priced continuing to be unstable and the matrimonial home often being the largest asset, this will inevitably make it more difficult to come up with a solution that can work. However, our family lawyers have plenty of creativity and experience and with a bit of advice you may find there are options and alternatives you did not even realise were possible!

The second appears to be the fear of the cost of the process itself. At Woolley & Co we are acutely conscious of the pressures on everyone. We have not increased our fee level for a number of years. We have always offered fixed fee solutions where we can. There seems to be some myths still around though – one viewer emailed in to BBC Breakfast saying that waiting for a 2 year separation will make things much cheaper. This is a complete misapprehension. The divorce process is absolutely identical and you will still need to seek a final solution to financial issues.

I must agree that it will be very frightening to contemplate whether ending an unhappy relationship could leave you in an impossible financial position. But there is nothing better than finding out where you stand from one of our expert family lawyers before you make that decision. To that end we have offered for some time now a fixed fee detailed case assessment which will allow us to thoroughly explain the process and discuss ideas about how matters could be addressed and possibly resolved. It’s one way to have unhelpful myths dispelled and allows for informed decision making. There’s nothing more tragic in my job than talking to someone who’s been badly misinformed about their legal rights or their responsibilities. This is often where stress and upset start.

Apparently the US (who are a little further ahead through the recession than us) are now experiencing a huge rush of people wanting advice about possible divorce, maybe as people feel they can’t wait any longer to see if the financial climate will improve.

The BBC piece ended with their “expert” making the rather jokey, but actually really accurate comment – “don’t buy your other half socks for Christmas” – we do tend to see a huge rise in enquiries and new work in January – the festive period can put an intolerable strain on relationships which are already not working. So treat yourself this year – have a detailed case assessment and find out what the future may hold for you!

Kate Butler
Family lawyer


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