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After this long period of lockdown and with daily activities still far from back to normal, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the pandemic is affecting us emotionally as well as physically.

The unprecedented period of living in each other’s pockets – or conducting a relationship through a screen – may have meant make or break for many couples, according to relationship therapists Relate. In a survey of 2,058 UK adults, one in 10 respondents in a relationship said lockdown made them realise they want to propose to their partner, while 8% came to the conclusion that they needed to end their relationship.

With so much of life as we know it having been turned upside down, we have had time to reflect on what we can and can’t live without, what we miss and don’t miss. We have perhaps also learned something about our own abilities to cope with drastic change.  Divorce is one of those life changing events that draws a very definite line through life before and afterwards. People will need emotional support from family and friends but are likely to also need professional help with the financial aspects of the breakup. We asked our professional connections at Jones Whyte Solicitors in Glasgow to tell us about their direct experience of helping people who are considering divorce during lockdown.

Senior solicitor at Jones Whyte Solicitors, Danielle Stevenson comments as follows:

“The major effect we have seen has been the ability to plan for the future. Understandably, people are very focused on the short term, and this has further compounded difficult situations where parties wish to separate but have been effectively been stuck with their other half at home due to the lockdown regulations.

 We have been advising clients to consider the long-term effects of entering into agreements at this stage, and the impact that the pandemic will possibly have had on investments, pensions and finances generally. Some clients have taken a cautious approach whilst others simply wish ties to be cut as soon as is possible, the delays caused by lockdown creating further stress and anxiety in an already difficult time.

We have also seen an unusual number of people seeking advice for this time of year, but this correlates with the months during lockdown being quieter where people are taking stock and considering their options. We very much want to see our clients now more than ever considering their position and ensuring that they take robust financial advice and plan for their, and their families, future.”

– Danielle Stevenson, Jones Whyte Solicitors

We would of course echo Danielle’s comments about the importance of seeking advice and professional help at this difficult and life-changing time and would like to highlight that people may well be surprised by the level of concern and sensitivity they can receive from a professional adviser. As well as providing help with investments, pensions and budgeting, we are all human beings with life experience, knowledge and empathy who understand that a listening, sympathetic ear is just as important as a calculator or a tax manual.

If divorce is the only solution, the most pressing issues are likely to be the home and the children. However,  an appropriate division of pension assets is also crucial. In recent times, we are accustomed to seeing people with financial salary pension benefits that have a 7-figure price tag, quite often the largest value asset that the couple has. It is crucial that a spouse or partner who has entitlement to benefits under such a scheme understands the value of that.

Divorcing spouses are often unaware of their rights and still less aware of how to begin to approach the issue of a fair split of pension assets. There are a number of options and no universal right or wrong approach. The best course of action will very much depend on the couple’s wider financial situation, personal circumstances and priorities. Legal and financial advice is therefore essential.

Cornerstone has launched our snapshot pension service to help people become better acquainted with their pensions and whether they are on track to be financially secure in retirement.  Many people have little idea regarding how much they will need in retirement, whether they are living as a single person or part of a couple with a joint income.  Finding out what you currently have in your pension pots is just the first step on the road to either joint financial security or financial independence in later life. It’s a long road and can be a winding one, and we highly recommend not putting off until tomorrow what you can do today.

Even if all is rosy in matters of the heart just now, the global pandemic has taught us all that none of us can take things for granted and engaging with a good plan for retirement is every bit as sensible as wearing a face mask.