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New Approaches To Divorce Settlements In Times Of Recession

Survey results published by The Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts in June 2009, indicate that the way in which divorce proceedings are being handled are changing, due in part to the current economic climate. With the fall in house prices and pension funds, the two largest assets in a divorce settlement, separating and divorcing couples are looking for more costs effective and affordable ways of untying the knot and are exploring more creative solutions for resolving their financial issues.

During the boom years of the property market, the equity in the family home could pay for the divorce and provide deposits and funds for the separating and divorcing couple so that they could start new lives apart. In today’s property market, that equity has been squeezed and the house is not selling.

Before, one party might have bought out the other. Now financing is not so readily available. Also the party being bought out is selling their share at the low end of the market. As the property market continues to fluctuate, it has become more challenging to determine how much and for how long a home is worth, at a certain price. Together couples may be able to afford to keep the family home but apart many cannot make it alone.

If there is any silver lining in these current trends, it is that some couples are being more creative and finding more amicable solutions. If a couple can work together with their Lawyers and other divorce specialists in a non adversarial manner, they can find solutions that will meet both their interests and carry them through the current recession.

In my practice at Sharp Family Law, I recently worked with my client, his spouse, and his spouse’s lawyer to create a plan that deferred the sale of the family home until the housing market improves. Instead of the traditional approach of lawyers sending positional letters back and forth between them, face to face communication at meetings took place between us all and during them we were able to develop a solution that met the interests and goals of everyone.

“If there is any silver lining in these current trends, it is that some couples are being more creative and finding more amicable solutions”.

Some couples are able to subdivide the house so they can both live independent of the other within it. Others have agreed that the children should continue to live in the house whilst the parents alternate when they stay with them. A difficult arrangement to successfully maintain but indicative of how creative and family focused, couples can and sometimes need to be.

A dispute resolution process offered by Sharp Family Law that encourages divorcing couples to think creatively and craft solutions that work for them and their families is called Collaborative Practice. It is a process that enables couples to take control over what happens, how fast it happens, who is involved and ensures that those who are, including the lawyers for each party, work only towards a mutually satisfactory settlement. Everyone has an input and brainstorming and creative ideas can emerge to resolve differences and issues.


Richard Sharp

After 15 years as a Partner in a top UK 100 Law Firm, Richard Sharp founded Sharp Family law to provide a family law firm devoted to the practice of appropriate dispute resolution and interest based negotiation processes. MORE >

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