Published: 27 August 2014
Family law firms have issued a warning that the rising cost of divorce settlements are forcing parties that are weaker financially into accepting unfair settlements.
In most cases, the financially weaker of the two parties is the wife and too many of them are having to bow to financial pressure and 'fold' early to keep divorce costs as low as possible.
The process of divorce has improved over the years to be smoother and more efficient, but it is also seen as becoming increasingly unfair.
Since April 2013, legal aid has been removed from the family courts, which has penalised lower income and single parent families, creating a two-tier system of those who can afford legal fees and those who can't - and forcing weaker parties to accept whatever they can.
The average age of divorcees is also increasing. The number of people aged over 60 separating from their spouse has almost doubled compared to 10 years ago. It has been suggested that longer life expectancy and rising property prices are the cause, as well as "empty nest syndrome" - which is when their children have grown up and left home, forcing older couples to spend more time alone without the bond of their children keeping them together.
Rising divorce costs and the removal of legal aid has made couples more conscious of getting into costly legal disputes. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the total number of divorces in England and Wales is almost 20% lower than 10 years ago.
The average age of couples getting divorced may have an impact on the overall reduction in the number of divorces, as older couples are generally more experienced and mature when it comes to resolving conflict and will have more to lose in regards to finances, property and assets.
This could lead to couples being more cautious of the risk of expensive divorce proceedings and having to fold early to reach a quick settlement that is not necessarily in their best interests.
The pressure to give in and accept an unfair settlement tends to be more common in women, as generally men tend to be higher earners, putting the women in a weaker position to negotiate their settlement. It is important to remember that any unfair settlement will have a large impact on the well being of the children, especially if the women (or primary care giver) gives in first.
If you are thinking about separation from your partner, then K J Smith Solicitors can help. Our team of family law experts will discuss your circumstances sensitively and compassionately, making sure that we deliver the possible outcome for you and your family. To arrange your free 45 minute consultation, contact a member of our team today on 01491 630000 (Henley-on-Thames), 020 7070 0330 (Central London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor) or 01256 584000 (Basingstoke).