What does the current financial uncertainty mean for separating couples?

The topic of financial uncertainty and the impact which the rising cost of living can have on people’s lives is one which is often discussed in terms of economics and wider societal change. What doesn’t get mentioned as often, however, is the way in which a prolonged period of financial uncertainty can have a huge effect on separating couples, but here at Higgins Miler we know from experience just how pronounced the effect on separating couples can be. 

We specialise in family law at Higgins Miller, and that means dealing with difficult issues such as wills and probate, adoption and domestic abuse. It also means helping separating couples – either married or co-habiting – to make a clean break at the end of a relationship and get on with the rest of their lives. The wide-spread levels of financial uncertainty currently impacting across virtually the whole of the UK can lead, in a very direct way, to more separating couples needing to seek legal advice in the first place. 

According to figures published in Metro newspaper, 90% of people feel that the financial uncertainty of the times has affected them and left them feeling concerned, so much so that 55% felt that their relationships were ‘on the rocks’ as a direct result of the cost of living crisis. The strain being placed on these relationships was based around worries that there would be ‘not enough money coming in’ and ‘not enough money to pay the bills’, with almost 70% of couples worrying that their relationship won’t survive the current financial uncertainty. 

Our work with separating couples, or those enquiring about a divorce, a separation agreement or the dissolution of a civil partnership, has taught us that concerns over the cost of separating often persuade couples to stay together long after it is actually desirable to do so. The financial concerns of separating couples can usually be divided into two areas. The first of these is exactly how much any legal advice is going to cost them, particularly if they want to come to an agreement over shared finances or the welfare of any children. The second area of concern centres upon the financial state which the parties will be left in following a separation. 

As far as the first of these concerns – the worry over legal costs – is concerned, we are able to reassure separating couples by offering a free 20 minute appraisal and then a fixed-fee first appointment. Throughout the process of offering help and advice to separating couples we will always be completely transparent about any potential costs involved, and will minimise those costs for separating couples by helping to steer them away from having to turn to the courts to settle any differences. Our experience has taught us that separating couples get to keep much more of their own money if they can come to a shared agreement on issues such as how to deal with assets, debts and property and how and where any children will be cared for.

The question of the on-going financial situation of separating couples is likely to be slightly more complicated, particularly during an era of financial uncertainty. The lower earning half of a separating or divorcing couple may well be concerned that future spikes in expenses such as mortgage rates and energy costs might render agreed maintenance payments no longer fit for purpose, particularly in cases where children are being supported. Separating couples might find it more difficult to come to an amicable financial settlement against a backdrop of financial uncertainty, and the kind of amounts allowed for day to day expenses in any such agreement will need to take the volatile nature of the financial situation into account. If either party asks for too much or offers too little for the financial agreement to be seen as reasonable, it is far less likely to lead to an agreement, increasing the risk of having to ask a court to decide. As experts, we would advise any separating couples to negotiate financial arrangements which involve a degree of flexibility and ‘wriggle room’, should the financial situation shift dramatically after the relationship has ended. Ultimately, the decision to separate a single household into two distinct households is bound to involve an increase in expenses across the board. Here at Higgins Miller we work with separating couples to reach a compromise which works for both parties at the time of separation and will continue to work if the wider financial situation shifts in the future.   

If you’d like to find out more about how separating couples can reach agreements during times of financial uncertainty please call us on 0161 429 7251 or email us at [email protected]. We’ve recently passed our Cyber Essential accreditation, something which demonstrates our forward-thinking attitude and determination to remain ahead of the competition. The first 20-minute appraisal is provided free of charge, and we’ll give you the first appointment for a fixed fee, so you don’t have to worry about how much our advice is going to cost. If you want to explore our wider charging system then please take a look here.


March 27, 2023