Covid 19 and Financial Issues

Sharon Blackstone
Solicitor, Mediator and Collaborative Practitioner
8 June 2020

As media reports have stated, we at Blackstone Family Law Service have been receiving an increasing number of enquiries relating to the problems faced by couples arising from the Covd-19 crisis. It is predicted that with the easing of the lockdown restrictions, there will be an increase in the number of divorces and separations resulting from the stresses and strains experienced with couples and families having remained together under one roof for in excess of two months.

A number of the enquiries we have dealt with relate to the arrangements for the children of separated or separating parents. These arrangements have proved to be challenging. Although the Courts can deal with any unresolved disputes, they have urged parents to reach agreement, if necessary, on a temporary basis, whenever possible.

This article highlights some of the issues which will need to be addressed in relation to financial and property matters.


MARRIED COUPLES.

  • With the difficulties many people are facing in relation to their employment, assessing future financial arrangements may be very difficult if they have been made redundant, are currently furloughed and uncertain about their job security, or, may be struggling to restart a business or some form of self-employment.
  • The values of assets, including properties, investments and pensions, are fluctuating and it may be hard to decide whether the financial issues can be dealt with now or in the future.
  • Different forms of pensions may require different treatment.
  • It may be difficult to work out what maintenance should be paid because of uncertainty as to future income and also the future budgeted needs for both spouses.
  • Whilst the Courts are operating, financial cases are not being prioritised and it is therefore preferable for these to be addressed by negotiation or, in some cases, by arbitration or other forms of dispute resolution to save the potential delay and significant legal costs of protracted and uncertain litigation.

We are also dealing with cases where divorced clients have existing maintenance or other financial orders which can no longer be complied with because of changed financial circumstances. Maintenance orders can be varied where appropriate. For orders relating to property, investments and pensions, there are some applications which can be made to vary the arrangements, in limited circumstances.


UNMARRIED COUPLES.

  • The situation which arises most frequently with unmarried couples is how to deal with a property which they own jointly, or to which they have both contributed. The applicable law is trust law which means that any disputes are rarely straightforward. Problems may be exacerbated by a decline in the value of the property, especially if it may be argued that it should be retained as home for any minor children while they complete their education.
  • Child-support payments will need to be worked out and whilst a statutory formula is applied for this purpose, there can be problems if the parent who is to make the payment is facing uncertainty in relation to their employment.

We are able to help and advise on the issues which we have outlined above and many others. We offer a free 30 minute telephone consultation service. If you are facing or dealing with any problems arising from relationship breakdown at the current time, please do not hesitate to contact us at enquiries@blackstonefamilylaw.co.uk