According to a survey conducted by Grant Thornton UK LLP, during this recession, many family lawyers have noticed both a delay in separating couples starting divorce proceedings and a decrease in the number of divorces.
The law firm stated that this trend is to be expected in difficult economic times as many potential clients are unable to fund divorce proceedings because of reduced value or liquidity of personal assets, as many home owners find themselves in or close to negative equity. Lawyers need to be prepared for an increase in the divorce rate when the economy improves.
The survey revealed that the most common reason for marriage breakdown was growing apart/ falling out of love, with 29% of respondents citing that as a cause. Extra-marital affairs were cited as the cause of marriage breakdown in just under a quarter of cases. Eighty-six per cent of lawyers said that the most common age of their clients fell within the 40-49 age bracket and 38% stated that they had seen an increase in the parties' ages. The survey supports recent statistical evidence that showed a national trend of ‘silver splitters', with 14% of lawyers saying that the majority of divorces were from marriages over 20 years compared to 4% in 2012.
In recent months it has also been a common issue for one of the parties to try to mislead the proceedings by not giving full disclosure of assets. A fifth of the lawyers asked had no cases involving missing/hidden assets in 2010 and 2011 compared to 9% in 2013.
Another matter which the study highlighted was the effect of cuts in public funding on divorce cases. A quarter of lawyers are concerned that more people are becoming litigants in person, which, together with the potential rise in the number of divorces, is likely to add further pressure to already stretched courts.