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Lawyers predict a boom in separating couples being forced to live together this January ‘Divorce Day’

Banner Jones says many couples are seeking advice on living together post-separation 

A Derbyshire law firm which has a specialist family law department has reported an increase in the number of couples who are seeking legal advice on their rights if they choose to continue to live together, after going through a separation or divorce.

Like many firms across the region, Banner Jones’ family team says it is bracing itself for its busiest period of the year, with Monday the 9th of January – the first working Monday of the year – informally dubbed, ‘Divorce Day’.

According to Gov UK, there were 30,154 divorce filings between January and March 2022, a 30% increase from October to December 2021.

However, Banner Jones’ Head of family law, Kelly Parks, says she anticipates that advice relating to remaining living together whilst separated will feature heavily in the advice that people are asking for, for the first time, as many couples are not in a financial position to go their separate ways.

Kelly says that the increase in the cost of cost-of-living – including soaring energy prices and rising mortgage rates – is forcing some couples to consider living together, even if their relationship has broken down.

She says: “The stress of trying to create the perfect Christmas, spending too much time with family, further exasperated by money troubles after the festive break, are often the main reasons why married couples decide to split at this time of year.

“Throw into the mix the cost-of-living crisis and we expect to see the usual increase in divorce and separation enquiries in early 2023. Perhaps more so than ever before.

“However, what we have found in recent months is that more and more people are seeking legal advice about how to protect their assets and finances, and how to manage children matters, if they choose to stay living with their ex after they split.

“In most cases, this isn’t the ideal scenario for anyone involved, but people are finding that they are just not in a position to move from a dual to a single income household. It’s a real cause of concern for many.”

Kelly says that while there is no legal reason why a separated couple can’t continue to live together, it would be sensible for both parties to seek legal advice on how best to protect their finances and formalise arrangements when they remain living together after separation, and beyond.

“The introduction of no-fault divorce in April 2022 means there is no longer any restrictions on living separately for a period of time before your divorce can be finalised,” Kelly explains. “However, it can potentially muddy the waters of a divorce, and may lead to further confusion for non-married couples too.

“My recommendation would be to enter into what is known as a Separation Agreement, also known as a Deed of Separation. This is an agreement between two parties in the form of a legal contract, and it can be used by both couples who are married, and those who are not.

“As part of your Separation Agreement, you will be able to clearly state who will take on which of the financial responsibilities, including the mortgage or rent, any household bills like council tax and heating, as well as any debts.

“Separating couples who were not married may already have a cohabitation agreement in place. If so, they may want to ensure that is updated to reflect their current circumstances.”

Kelly explains that while living together should not hold up the divorce process, it is important that at the point the couple has decided that the relationship ended that agreement is reached on the financial matters by entering into a Separation Agreement, the terms of which can then be reflected in a Financial Order once the separated couple are ready to start divorce proceedings.

She added: “Sadly, ‘divorce day’ isn’t a myth and shows a repeating pattern each year.

“This year not only are there pressures from the festive period, but the cost-of-living is playing a role in divorces, and we are expecting to see many more cases of parties being forced to live together post-separation as a result. Finances are likely to play a significant part in that decision making process, but many couples also want to minimise the impact of a separation on any children involved.”

A Separation Agreement can also incorporate the arrangements for the children such as the time they spend with each parent during term time and school holidays as well as the day-to-day arrangements for the children.

This can include the arrangements whilst the separated couple are still together as well as when one of them moves out. The arrangements for the children can be agreed at any time and is not reliant on divorce proceedings. If there is a dispute about the arrangements, the first port of call should be speaking to a solicitor and a making a referral to mediation.

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**ENDS**  For further information please don’t hesitate to contact: Ashlea McConnell [email protected] 07852 282 802 Notes to editors: Established 140 years ago, Banner Jones is a leading law firm with offices in Chesterfield, Sheffield, Dronfield, Mansfield and Nottingham. Its 153 strong legal team operates across a full spectrum of legal services; including personal matters such as Personal Injury, Divorce, Wills and Probate, Residential Property and Dispute Resolution through to business advice on Company Formation, Commercial Property, Company Finance, Partnership Agreements, Debt Recovery and Employment issues. The firm also employs a Notary Public in its team – one of the few remaining in Chesterfield.

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