It has been reported today that the counselling service, Relate, is seeing an increased number of people coming to them for advice about how to deal with debt. Given the current state of the economy, this is not a huge surprise. Another trend that is now being seen by Relate counsellors is an increase in the number of people seeking advice about their marriages and relationships. There is no clear cut "yes" or "no" answer to the question of whether these trends are linked, but it is safe to say that when times are hard, relationships do suffer.
The problem for couples who are separating at the moment is that when it comes to sorting out "who gets what", assets that were worth substantially more a few years ago are being found to have decreased in value, often dramatically to the point where all the couple are arguing about is how to split the negative equity.
Due to the decline in the economy, we are hearing conflicting reports about whether the number of cases will increase or decrease. Whilst relationships suffer and couples find it increasingly difficult to cope in a recession, the fact is that the assets that have been built up during the marriage have decreased in value to such a point where arguments about how to divide those assets will inevitably result in a solicitor's bill that is higher than the value to which they have decreased.
It is a difficult situation in which many couples find themselves, as they do not want to be together anymore but at the same time they cannot afford to separate. Where parties have come to the conclusion that their relationship is over, we encourage our clients to try to agree financial matters between themselves as much as possible, in order that they can preserve as much of their money as possible rather than spending it disproportionately on solicitors' fees. This will in turn hopefully have the effect that any ongoing relationship that the parties have is as amicable as possible, for example when they need to remain in communication about arrangements for their children.
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