Divorce enquiries soar to record levels

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Lawyers warn the cost of living crisis is placing growing strain on couples with divorce enquiries to legal firms soaring to record levels last month.

Data from the UK’s largest family law firm, shared exclusively with The Independent, showed lawyers received 4,129 enquiries last month, which is their highest ever recorded.

This marks a 25 per cent jump from May this year, and a 34 per cent rise on July 2021 when Stowe Family Law received 3,089 divorce enquiries. Meanwhile, last month’s figures constitute a 132 per cent rise from July 2019 – before the pandemic and the cost of living crisis hit.

Research by Stowe Family Law, which has around 40 offices around the UK, found just over half of UK couples say there is tension in their relationship as a result of the cost of living crisis, with seven in ten concerned their relationship will not make it through the spiralling crisis.

While a quarter of people surveyed said they are staying in their relationship due to being fearful they could not afford living costs if they were single.

The report comes after inflation recently surged to a new 40-year high, reaching 9.4 per cent, with the Office for National Statistics warning food and fuel prices were key factors behind the rise. Millions of Britons are believed to be behind on paying household bills.

Amanda Phillips-Wylds, managing partner at Stowe Family Law, told The Independent: “It is not too difficult to see how tensions in relationships might arise here. We often find financial tension cited as the reason behind a divorce enquiry, particularly where a person feels their current lifestyle can no longer be maintained.

“Now that we are in August – a month often spent on holiday and spending some hard-earned disposable income – the reality that many couples can’t afford to take a proper break and go abroad is causing a lot of friction.”

Ms Phillips-Wylds noted couples who decide to go separate ways are forced to grapple with “resolving their finances against a backdrop of spiralling costs and uncertainty”.

She added: “This is putting even more pressure on couples when looking at how to divide assets and plan effectively for financial security in the future.

“For those cases that end up in the family court, the main priority is the needs of both parties, with the welfare of any children paramount. When assets are limited, this becomes more challenging, and the definition of people’s needs will need to become more conversative.”

The divorce firm, who polled 580 people across the UK, discovered the chief reason for the cost of living crisis triggering tension between couples was “not enough money coming in” and “not enough money to pay the bills”.

Ms Phillips-Wylds raised concerns about people who “feel trapped in unhappy relationships” as she said this was particularly troubling for those living with an abusive partner.

“Unfortunately, increased financial pressure can act as a trigger for abusive partners, and means their victims cannot afford to leave the home,” she added.

“We must be mindful of this now more than ever, at a time when the cost of living crisis is too big a deterrent for so many people who no longer wish to remain in their romantic relationship. It is important for people to consider their options, and whilst the feeling of being trapped is all too real, there are ways out. The first step is seeking advice, either professionally or from a trusted friend or family member.”

Anyone who requires help or support can contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline which is open 24/7 365 days per year on 0808 2000 247 or via their website www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/

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