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Family Law

Separating couples can’t afford to break up


Friday, January 12, 2024

High mortgage costs, stagnant wages, and spiralling living costs can make separation seem impossible. A recent study by Stowe Family Law found that over a third of couples considering divorce are staying together because they cannot afford to break up.

The costs of running two households can be a real deterrent and make it impossible for couples to forge new lives separately. However, despite these challenges, many of my clients are finding innovative ways to “break up” and move on with their lives. Some of those clients have agreed to share their stories.

Kate’s Story – Under the same roof

When my husband and I separated, high mortgage rates meant neither of us were in a financial position to buy out the other person’s share of our home. Selling the property was not a viable option as our existing mortgage was subject to an arbitrary early redemption fee. It made financial sense to continue living together. But our relationship had deteriorated to the extent where we struggled to even be in the same room as one another.

Having discussed my conundrum with Sarah, she suggested that we explore an arrangement whereby we continue to live together in the martial home but live separately. With a view to living as harmoniously as possible, Sarah recommended having a written agreement in place to regulate our living arrangements.

With the assistance of mutual friends, my husband and I have devised an agreement. It includes a colour coded floor plan to divide the house between us. For communal areas, such as the kitchen and main bathroom, we have introduced a rota. We also have an agreed list of “house rules” in place which includes whose responsible for which household chores and rules around visitors – the in-laws and new partners are banned !

On advice from Sarah, we went one step further and have a formal separation agreement that deals with the financial arrangements pending our divorce.

 The arrangement has been in place now for almost a year. Whilst my life does not quite feel like my own, the upside of this arrangement is that I have remained on the property ladder, I have not incurred any debt and most importantly I get to share our dog. I am hopeful that this arrangement will continue until interest rates have fallen sufficiently so that I can purchase my husband’s share of the property.

Francesca’s story – Nesting Arrangement

Having discovered my husband’s infidelity, I wanted a divorce but we soon realised that we could not afford to separate and run two homes. So, we continued to live together in the family home. We tried our best to avoid one another, eating our meals at different times and sleeping in separate bedrooms. We kept any communications to a minimum, limited to the arrangements for our children. But for me the emotional toll of this arrangement became too much.

During a free initial consultation with Sarah, she mentioned the option of a “nesting” arrangement. This involves the children remaining living in the family home with the parents rotating, taking it in turns to live in the family home – at other times staying elsewhere. I was a bit sceptical, but my husband and I agreed to trial it. When not living in the family home, I stayed with a friend, and he stayed with his parents.

 To my surprise this turned out to be the best arrangement for the family. It incurred no additional expense; it caused the least disruption for the children; and it gave me some much-needed space to come to terms with the breakdown of my marriage.

As the months past, we worried we were becoming an imposition on our family and friends. So having looked at our existing outgoings in detail, we cut back on all non-essential items. Having done so we found that we were able to afford to rent a very modest apartment where each of us could stay when we were not living at the family home.

Whilst this arrangement continues to work well for us, I do not envisage this as a long-term solution. Ideally, we both wish to have our own homes. But for now, due to financial constraints, we have had to lower our expectations and make compromises.

Jackie’s Story – One Mortgage

A couple of years ago my partner and I purchased a property and moved in together. It had taken us many years to be in a position to afford to do this. Sadly, our relationship ended shortly afterwards. There was no equity in the property and neither of us could afford the mortgage payments without the other’s contribution. Also, I had amassed a fair bit of debt. It, therefore, followed that the property would need to be sold.

With an extremely heavy heart I started making enquiries with local estate agents. One agent asked me whether we had considered renting the property instead of selling it. He explained that there was a shortage of rental properties in our area and we would be able to charge a premium. Having made enquiries with our lender, we worked out that the rent we would receive would cover the monthly mortgage payments with a bit extra leftover. So, for us this seemed the most financially viable option – we got to remain on the property ladder and we could also afford to separate.

So we let out our property and separated. My husband was able to rent his own place. I am presently staying with my parents whilst I pay off my debts. It is far from ideal being back with my parents but it’s short term pain for long term gain.

The decision to separate can be daunting, especially in the current economic climate. If you’re in a marriage and think you can’t afford to divorce, don’t let the fear of legal fees hold you back from seeking advice. Many lawyers, including myself, offer a free initial consultation. This gives you the opportunity to speak with someone who can help guide you through the process without worrying about the cost. Get in touch with me by email in the strictest of confidence and let’s discuss your options.




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