It is sad to note that amongst the many changes that the pandemic will wreak on society could be a sharp increase in divorces. According to divorce specialists, there has been a threefold increase in the number of divorce applications since lockdowns finished in many parts of the country. In reality, the numbers of couples heading their separate ways are quite staggering.
The number of couples heading their separate ways is quite staggering.
According to Angela Harbinson, chief executive of The Separation Guide, there has been a 230 per cent spike in the number of couples being referred to its services, a doubling in requests for psychologists and an 85 per cent rise in couples “thinking about separating”. On top of those extraordinary percentages, about 73 per cent of those seeking help have a family home and 24 per cent an investment property. It appears the saying “familiarity breeds contempt” became even truer this year with many couples deciding to part ways after being stuck at home with each other for months on end. However, lawyers are saying that rising property prices are causing lengthy delays and bottlenecks for the record number of couples seeking separation.
Asset split woes
While I’m not a legal practitioner, the split of assets has always been the most contentious issue to work out when a relationship breaks down. Indeed, property valuation disputes often lead to additional proceedings that cost more money and create more delays, preventing each party from moving on with their lives – potentially for a number of years. It is sad statistics like these that motivated me to co-write The Female Investor. There is still such a long way to go when it comes to financial equality between women and men – and especially when it comes to property ownership.
While I’m not going to suggest who should get what in a relationship breaks down, because each circumstance is unique to the individuals involved, I do wish that these arguments didn’t have to exist at all. Legal advisers might suggest that both parties have assets of their own outside of the relationship. That is, imagine if a couple decide to move in together after a dating for a year or so and both of them have a property or even two that they have purchased individually. The ideal scenario could be that they decide to create a new home, either renting or owning, where they will live so they are truly equal when it comes to mortgage repayments or rent. At the same time, if they can afford to do so, their holdings – now rental properties – remain outside of the relationship, with each party financing any property-related expenses individually. They may want to legally cement this division of assets via a binding financial agreement or similar, but my hope is that each party will fundamentally respect and honour the fact that they each have their own assets that pre-dated the relationship.
Does it make sense to have separate assets?
Sure, over time, one party may opt to sell one of their properties if they choose to do so, but the key is that they both have assets that are truly theirs and theirs alone. If, at some point in the future, they decide to part ways, then it will be much simpler to divide any joint assets they have created together, whilst their own assets remain outside of the financial settlement equation as per their original agreement. This may sound like some sort of unrealistic utopia to some people, but there is nothing wrong with hoping for more financial equality in relationships – as well as less stress and money spent on costly divorce proceedings – if you ask me.
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