People going through divorce in the UK have several choices for deciding about handling their personal finances: (1) they can reach a financial settlement themselves, (2) they can obtain the help of a mediator, (3) they can meet with a divorce solicitor, or (4) a judge will make the decisions for them in court. Divorce proceedings in the UK require a financial settlement before a divorce will be issued, although procedures differ among the four countries (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland). Attitudes toward money and finance among divorced and divorcing people in the UK generally seem to be that women do not talk about money, that it is natural for men to control the money during the marriage, and that women are going to be worse off financially after a divorce than men are. COVID-19 has affected personal finances of people who lost a great deal of money during the third week in March 2020 and the third week in April 2020, those who have lost their jobs entirely, and those who had their businesses close temporarily or permanently. The effect of COVID-19 on UK couples currently seeking a divorce is that the process will take longer because the courts are clogged or closed.
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Findings About UK Divorce Processes
- Divorces in the UK are handled differently from divorces in the US.
- The exact laws and processes for divorce differ among England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
- There are only five accepted “grounds” for divorce, and they are applied differently in the four countries of the UK.
- One cannot get divorced during the first year of marriage.
- Divorce takes about six months if there are no issues AND the parties have agreed on their financial settlement and arrangements for their children, if any.
- One must pay a fee of 550 British pounds to obtain a divorce in the UK. If one has the help of a divorce solicitor, the cost will be much greater.
- A UK judge can refuse to grant a divorce.
Findings About How People Going Through Divorce Handle Personal Finances
Attitudes Toward Money and Finance
- Studies indicated that women were more worried about their financial situations than men.
- “Less than two-thirds of women were aware of their partner’s personal wealth and financial situation during a relationship”.
- Many women know less than most men about finances due to cultural traditions in the UK.
- A survey asked people in the UK why they had not used the financial advice they received. “Among the men, 40 percent said their main fear was that they wouldn’t achieve their financial goals – but just 13 percent of women said the same.” Another question asked “people who’d never taken financial advice why they hadn’t. Of this sample, 45 percent of men said they felt confident enough in their own judgement and didn’t need to ask an expert. Only 36 percent of women said the same.”
- Another research study in the UK found that men were “far more likely to act on financial advice from a newspaper (39 percent vs 29 percent), or financial magazine (13 percent vs 6 percent), while women were more likely to refer to friends and family (27 percent vs 16 percent).
- Women generally were worse off financially after divorce than men, especially in regard to pensions. In the UK, pensions are arranged differently from the US system.
- A 2017 report from the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) emphasized that divorce and separation were “significant financial risk[s] to women left ‘vulnerable’ by joint decisions made while they were in a long-term relationship.”
- The 2017 report went on to state, “The average divorced woman has less than a third of the pension wealth of the average divorced man, while 10 percent more divorced women expect to rely on the state pension than men, 41 percent of whom have an occupational pension.”
- Divorce solicitors (attorneys) and blogs advised people to seek advice about their finances and to try to work out their financial settlements by themselves to save money. A solicitor or a mediator can help the couple.
- Two sources indicated that the UK courts were particularly backed up during COVID-19, and that divorces would take longer than usual to process.
- People who had lost a great deal of money in the financial crash at the beginning of COVID-19 did not want to be required to pay as much spousal maintenance as they would have been required to pay before the crash.
Although we searched extensively for information about divorcing/divorced people’s attitudes toward financial advice, we were unable to locate any hard data on this specific topic. Sources consulted included blogs by UK divorce solicitors advising clients to get financial advice, news articles reporting that divorcing couples needed financial advice, government websites, and articles by financial professionals recommending that divorcing couples get financial advice. Studies of women who had divorced showed that they wished they had known more about financial matters during their marriages, but did not indicate why they had not obtained that information, other than the cultural tradition that British women did not discuss money. Indeed, cultural tradition seemed to be the main reason why many (if not most) British women did not talk about money or get financial advice during their marriages.We did find two UK surveys of people in general who were asked about taking and not taking financial advice, so we included some results of those surveys.