COVID-19 and your finances on divorce
If you commenced divorce and financial proceedings in the weeks and months before the COVID-19 pandemic swept its way through all of our lives, you may be concerned about the impact that the virus will have on the these proceedings.
For people with upcoming court hearings, the court have done their best to respond to the new situation and try to ensure that hearings that are currently in the list can go ahead as planned, albeit via remote means. You can find out more about the court’s response here: https://www.herrington-carmichael.com/supporting-your-family/
Court hearings may not be your only concern. Having spoken to many clients over these past few weeks, it is clear that many people are concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on any financial settlement that they reach with their spouse.
We are all acutely aware that COVID-19 is not just a health crisis – the impact on the economy, stocks, businesses, the property market and employees is also being felt widely. The general situation is that most assets are likely to have fallen in value at this time.
How exactly could this have an impact on financial proceedings?
This could have an impact on cases where one party is looking to buy their spouse out of the family home with a lump sum payment. Also, the stagnation in the property market could cause difficulties where the parties are looking to sell the family home and purchase their own separate properties. Major banks have also recently announced that in the light of the pandemic, they will no longer be issuing mortgages with a high loan-to-value ratio. Nationwide will no longer offer a mortgage unless the borrower can provide at least 25% of the purchase price themselves, whilst the Lloyds Group have announced that new mortgage applicants must be able to provide at least 40% themselves. These announcements are dramatic and will affect parties’ mortgage raising capacities, which are often an important component of a final financial settlement. It is important to note that these new measures will not affect existing mortgage applications.
The impact of COVID-19 on larger businesses could mean that a party with a significant portfolio of shares finds the value of this asset decreases dramatically almost overnight. For those with interests in smaller businesses, COVID-19 may mean a temporary closure and/or loss of clients, which could affect both their personal income and the value of the business.
Some parties may even find themselves out of employment or receiving a reduced income. They may therefore need to consider whether they will require spousal maintenance in order to meet their living expenses, and whether the other party will be able to afford to pay this.
If you are already part of the way through financial remedy proceedings or negotiations, it is vital that you obtain up-to-date valuations for your assets and liabilities. You do not want to be negotiating on the basis of incorrect and over-inflated valuations. It can also be prudent to speak to a financial advisor alongside a family solicitor, particularly when there are business assets and investment portfolios involved.
If you have decided to eschew solicitor involvement and adopt a ‘DIY’ approach to settling your finances upon divorce, you might have some concerns over this approach in the light of COVID-19. A ‘DIY’ approach simply means that both you and your partner sit together (perhaps around the ‘kitchen table’) and discuss how your finances will be resolved upon divorce, coming up with your own ‘settlement’. This is usually done without proper and full financial disclosure from either party, and relies on each party trusting the other to be open and honest.
Our family solicitors can assist you to review any potential offer made by your spouse and advise you on whether a settlement remains fair. It is however important to note that in order to do this, we will require full and up to date financial disclosure from both you and your spouse.
If you are going through a divorce and you feel unsure about any of the financial aspects and you want to talk about the options available to you, our expert team are happy to assist.
We can arrange a telephone call or video call using FaceTime or WhatsApp, or, we can even arrange an ‘email’ appointment which allows you to communicate with us more discreetly.
Our team of family solicitors are experts in the field of matrimonial finances on divorce. If you would like to speak to one of team, please do not hesitate to contact our family team on 0118 977 4045 or HCFamily@herrington-carmichael.com
This reflects the law and market position at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought in relation to a specific matter.
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We are solicitors in Camberley, Wokingham and London. In 2019, Herrington Carmichael won ‘Property Law Firm of the Year’ at the Thames Valley Business Magazines Property Awards, ‘Best Medium Sized Business’ at the Surrey Heath Business Awards and we were named IR Global’s ‘Member of the Year’. We are ranked as a Leading Firm 2020 by Legal 500 and Alistair McArthur is ranked in Chambers 2020.