The University of Bristol recently published a report entitled ‘Fair Shares’ which carried out a widespread census of the financial and property arrangements that couples within England and Wales make when getting a divorce. This major research undertaking provides the first fully representative overview of such arrangements, bringing to light a variety of remarkable facts about divorce, as outlined in this article.
It is likely unsurprising to learn that an equal division of assets – that is a 50/50 split – is very uncommon amongst ex-spouses, with only 30% reporting that they did in fact receive half of the matrimonial assets in their divorce. This figure, and those listed below, are substantiated by the 2,415 surveyed divorcees who had legally separated up to five years before the ‘Fair Shares’ census. The university of Bristol also interviewed 53 people who had been through a recent divorce as part of the group of respondents.
The report also notes that the median value of divorcees’ accumulative assets, including homes, pensions, and any debts, amounts to only about £135,000. Further, a significant 17% of divorcees had no assets whatsoever to divide between themselves and their ex-partners when separating. It perhaps stands to reason then that an unfortunate 23% of divorcees surveyed have ended up either in debt or with nothing following their divorce given the modest value of most couples’ assets.
Financial and Legal Awareness
Findings also point towards another notable observation; that a significant portion of divorcing couples have a limited or very poor understanding of theirs and their partner’s finances to begin with.
For example, 10% of homeowners with a mortgage were completely unaware of what the equity in their property was when they filed for divorce and about 38% of divorcees also admitted to having poor knowledge of their partner’s finances during their marriage. Additionally, an impressive 37% of them did not know what the value of their own pension pot was (let alone their partner’s) when negotiating their divorce settlement – a factor that likely affected how fair of an outcome was achieved.
Couples were also found to have sought out information, advice, and support on how to proceed with their divorce from a variety of sources outside of the legal profession. 29% had relied upon government websites to educate themselves, while others simply turned to the internet in general instead of an established authority. Moreover, some divorcees (12% of them to be precise) had even gone as far as to seek no legal advice or information at all for their divorce.
In line with the above, the University of Bristol’s report found that only 32% of surveyed divorcees had availed themselves of legal services to aid in carrying out and finalising their financial arrangements. This was largely due to respondents’ desire to avoid any costs incurred from legal representation which a hefty 42% cited as the primary reason for making arrangements outside of the legal framework.
Even more surprising is the fact that 36% of ex-spouses had not even bothered to make any financial arrangements whatsoever when getting divorced. However, for divorcees who had chosen to make arrangements, 52% of them did so independently between themselves and 17% worked with a solicitor to negotiate their settlement.
Findings also gave evidence to suggest that divorcees who had chosen to make use of legal services generally ended up with more favourable or equitable outcomes in their settlements. This is due to an increased likelihood of factors such as pension position, ongoing financial support, and home transferral being properly addressed in such circumstances.
The Importance of Legal Advice
Surveys like the University of Bristol’s ‘Fair Shares’ are a reminder of just how challenging divorce can be. In a world where the breakdown of a marriage can often lead to significant changes in one’s financial position, which can jeopardise both security and well-being, it is important to take the necessary steps to protect your interests if you are considering a separation.
At Grayfords, our solicitors foster a unique approach to always prioritise the needs of our customers within their work. With a proven track record of success for our clients, we aim to achieve the best results for them by offering legal representation that is carefully tailored to whatever family dispute or conflict they are facing.
To find out more, book a free consultation with one of our solicitors today.