15 Apr 2020
Frances Hughes participates in Spear’s webinar on divorce in times of coronavirus and the essence of a successful divorce
The Covid-19 crisis has made the complicated process of navigating the family courts even more difficult. To help, Spear’s assembled a panel of top family lawyers to unpick the complexity and offer the benefit of their experience and insight.
The coronavirus crisis will lead to more HNW divorces, according to a panel of top lawyers who took part in a Spear’s webinar.
Frances Hughes, partner at Hughes Fowler Carruthers, noted that divorces tend to peak at two times of the year: after Christmas and after the school summer holidays. Regarding the latter, strained marriages often break under the pressure of couples spending prolonged periods of time together.
“Coronavirus, the lockdown and the effect on the economy is causing huge stress to people. If your relationship is already very stressy, I’m afraid it’s not likely to survive this,” said Hughes.
When asked whether this would be a good time to divorce, from a financial perspective, Frances commented:
“I think people obviously do manoeuvre because some people are desperately worried about what would happen if they had to divide the cake and it suddenly shrunk.”
She added that, at the same time, people do see opportunities in making sure something doesn’t hit the courts until there’s greater certainty. She noted it is going to be very difficult to advise rushing into something now, when it would mean dealing with all the global uncertainty.
On the issue of whether the principle of Barder would be suitable for some divorces, Frances commented:
“There are lots of Barder cases right now, where people have agreed something on one basis and then the assets have just disappeared, but we shouldn’t think that cases like Barder are absolutely set in stone. The court can have another look at the whole principle. They won’t want to do that because there will be too many people coming back to have a go at it, but they may be forced to do so if the economic circumstances are dire enough.”
The webinar concluded with the question: what is the essence of a successful divorce, if such a thing exists, and how do you make it happen?
Frances answered that almost everybody wants the same thing: no emotional damage, if possible, especially for children, low costs and a sensible settlement at an early stage.
“Those things tend to go together,” she added, “I think you are much more likely to achieve them if you take good legal advice.” Frances also recommended going to barristers at an early enough stage, plenty of thinking time and using the therapists, as well as the child experts recommended by solicitors, to keep the communication going and to deal with other additional issues.
“My immediate recommendation is don’t launch into something. If you think there might be difficulties, just go and have a talk about it and you might get some good recommendations for counsellors or other professionals who might help you sort it out anyway.”