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We are all still coming to terms with the way our world has been turned upside down this year by the coronavirus. Adjusting to working from home, home-schooling and being restricted to exercising once a day were just a few of the ways in which the lockdown impacted, and continues to impact, our lives. Those of us who have been largely untouched by the virus directly may be yet to experience its full impact as we are told the economy is heading for its worst recession in decades. In such uncertain times, what considerations should those who are divorcing, and separating be alive to?

It has never been more important for both sides in a divorce to provide full up to date financial disclosure so that a realistic view can be taken of what the resources are before exploring the options for settlement. Stock markets have fallen and are likely to remain volatile for a while. Investments and pensions have already seen a significant reduction in value. Valuations that pre-date February 2020 should be reviewed and updated.

Thought should be given to individual attitude to risk. Given the uncertainty about what will happen to the housing market, it may be risky to reach a settlement based on a present valuation because it is unlikely the settlement can be changed if the valuation turns out to be incorrect. However, if parties are ready to re-house, it may be wise to proceed as they will benefit from the stamp duty holiday if they complete their purchase before 31 March 2021.

What if a Final Financial Order has already been made but circumstances have drastically changed because of the coronavirus? Generally, applications to vary a Final Financial Order are not permitted. There are very few exceptions. However, if something unforeseen happens, which invalidates the basis on which the Final Financial Order was made, then an application to set aside the Order can be made. Such applications are rare and only succeed in exceptional circumstances.

The current public health crisis has led to all sorts of unforeseen consequences. Losing a former spouse to Covid-19 or the collapse of a business because of the Government’s stay at home measures may be a valid basis for applying to set aside a Final Financial Order made before these events happened. The merits of an application will be very case specific so obtaining specialist legal advice is essential.

If you need further advice, please contact any member of our family team, who are here to help.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.