Till debt do us part

6th January 2009

An increasing number of divorcing couples are going to find themselves 'joined at the wallet' for some time after their divorce is finalised, according to family law specialists at Higgs & Sons. According to the expert team of matrimonial law advisers, the current economic climate will see the end of the clean break divorce in many cases.

In cases where there is still wealth to be distributed, the courts may now need to examine the distribution of risky and secure assets. Some clients may also be advised against a one-off payment in preference of periodical payments that take into account the threat of redundancy and the fluctuating stock market.

The most recent headlines on divorce have focussed on the division of Madonna and Guy Ritchie's fortune. However, away from the world of celebrities, the courts are more likely to be grappling with the issue of splitting debt rather than assets.

Philip Barnsley, partner and family law expert at Higgs & Sons, explains:
"When the housing market was booming, the arguments focussed on how to divide up the equity in the property. The tide has now turned and the prospect of negative equity is looming in some cases. This presents a situation that the courts haven't faced on a significant scale for some time.

"As these cases come to the fore in 2009, we expect to see the Courts relying on previous case law, which has seen the matrimonial home transferred to one party, with the proviso that the other party will receive their share when market conditions allow.
"In addition, divorce lawyers are going to have to become more creative and imaginative in the way that they construct financial settlements in times of an economic downturn. The Courts are aware of the difficulties facing those with mortgages and are already becoming more sympathetic to this issue."

For further details, please contact Philip Barnsley, a Partner in the Family team on 01384 342100 or e-mail philip.barnsley@higgsandsons.co.uk.


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