January has historically been a time when couples file for divorce, usually after the pressures of Christmas highlight a need to separate. However, 2020 may well be different, with the pandemic lockdown causing much pressure on households through the worry, fear and financial woes that it is causing, with financial difficulties being one of the most common contribution to relationship breakdown.
Indeed, some are predicting both a divorce and baby boom at the end of this year and beginning of 2021. The current financial pressures being felt by some as the UK experiences its own 'divorce' from the EU seem but a distant memory, but will again come into significant focus at the end of 2020.
The financial position of divorce economics has evolved since the 2020 lockdown began and it was good to consider this recently with Mary-Ann Wright, Managing Partner of Manders Law in London via their excellent Blog portal. More can be found here: https://www.manderslaw.com/pensions-on-divorce-in-a-covid-19-climate/
Thank you to Cartwright Group Limited for their addition to this topical Blog with reference to the current actuarial position/ variances for defined benefit pension values they have seen in during Q1 and in part Q2 of 2020.
The Chapters Financial team sees regular enquiries from individuals seeking to understand the process and to consider the financial aspects of any separation, including any pensions to be divided (pensions in divorce).
I have been involved in providing advice on the financial aspects of divorce for over a decade (even longer if I count my own experience of divorce!), having been trained and tested by the Resolution organisation in 2007, and the options of how an individual may proceed through their divorce have changed over this time.
There has been significant and welcome ongoing increase in couples using mediation services to reach agreement. Parting couples come together in a constructive format to try to formulate a set of proposals with which they are happy to move forwards.
Contentious divorces still continue, and this is unlikely to change, although it would be fair to suggest that you pay to argue. The needs and care of any children of the family is likely to remain paramount to all involved in the process and you would not normally finalise a Decree Absolute with the Court without financial matters being resolved, either by agreement or adjudication, to include, where appropriate, division of pensions.
There are many terms that you may come across in the process of divorce, such as 'Decree Nisi', which means that the court has jurisdiction to regulate financial matters, and 'Decree Absolute', which brings a marriage to a conclusion.You might need a Form E, a Pension Sharing Order, a State Pension BR20 form or an Earmarking order, to name but a few. You might understand that we are advocates of individuals seeking professional legal advice at each turn of the process.
Also, please be under no illusion that the UK family law court system continues to be under great pressure due to the number of divorce cases and that can make the process lengthy, even when non-contentious. It is sensible to manage time and cost expectations as you proceed.
One recent development is the need for the UK legal system to consider 'no-fault' divorce, rather than one party having to petition on the basis of a fault within the marriage. Many are keen advocates of this proposal.
To further the consideration, I am delighted that my colleague, Karin Walker of KGW Family Law in Woking, has provided additional notes, as follows:
It is vital that separating couples have a clear understanding of their combined financial position as the task, which must be undertaken either by the couple through negotiation and discussion or by the court, is to ascertain what the resources and liabilities are and then how they should be divided. In this context it is important to obtain a pension report from an actuary in order to properly understand the value of the assets and the outcome of any pension sharing order.
More often than not couples are encouraged to find a form of process which enables them to be involved in the future of their family and make their own decisions within the parameters of that which is fair.
If it is impossible for agreement to be reached and some 3rd party intervention is required, the process of arbitration is very much more time and cost effective that the traditional court process. The couple are able to select the date and location of their hearing. They can choose their arbitrator who will be entirely committed to their case and will have read all of the papers, something which often the Judge in the Court process simply has insufficient available time to do.The process can be concluded in a matter of weeks and therefore the costs (in terms of both fees and emotional stress) are significantly reduced.
The most important thing is to receive proper clear advice from professionals who are specifically trained to help you reach the best possible future outcome for yourself and your family
Karin Walker of KGW Family Law can be contacted through the company's website here: https://www.kgwfamilylaw.com/karin-walker/team/15
The team at Chapters Financial is well versed in the financial aspects of divorce and the individual topics that may arise. We have recently posted an updated blog on 'Pensions in Divorce / State Pension Update' here: http://www.chaptersfinancial.com/blog/pensions-in-divorce-state-pension-update
Please do get in touch if you would like to consider what's involved and what might need to be arranged as you go through the process.
No individual advice is provided during the course of this web article.
Director of Chapters Financial Limited
Author of The Journey of Divorce: Addicted to Wedding Cake