Financial Settlements amid a Global Pandemic

March 26, 2020, By

The only thing that’s certain is that nothing is certain…

We are living in extraordinary times. No-one could have predicted that the Coronavirus outbreak would have had such far-reaching effect. We are now all in lockdown which has given us time to consider our financial positions.

We have all seen the news about record lows for the stock markets around the world with headlines telling us that the value of share-based investments have plummeted. That affects the values of pensions for many of us. It also impacts investments and income generated from those investments.

The housing market seems to be temporarily on hold. This could mean future fluctuations in the value of our homes and properties. We simply do not know.

Clients in ongoing financial cases are understandably worried and perplexed about what will happen and whether it is the right time to make a deal. The underlying basis on which any deal is made now could shift dramatically in the coming weeks and months leading to one, or potentially both parties, suffering financial prejudice and hardship. For many, the answer may be to sit it out and wait until we know what is going to happen. However, every situation is different, so please speak to your lawyer for guidance. Your lawyer will be able to go through your options, both in the short term and in the longer term, and to consider the risk and benefits of concluding a settlement now.

If you have made a financial settlement in the period before the lockdown and now face a catastrophic reduction to the value of your assets and their businesses, what is to be done? As a legal principle, the emphasis is rightly on achieving finality in financial cases. For this reason, the courts have shown great reluctance to re-open financial orders except in the most exceptional cases. However, we are now dealing with unprecedented events. The question for the court to ask is whether the event (Coronavirus) was “unforeseeable in the sense that it was not envisaged and could not reasonably have been envisaged at the time of making the order”.

We now officially have a pandemic. None of us could possibly have foreseen the situation we find ourselves in now after only a few short months following the outbreak in China at the end of 2019. The advice for some clients will be to seek an appeal to set aside an order. Again, as every situation is so different, please speak to your lawyer who will be able to advise you whether your case could fall into one of the very limited exceptions.

If you require advice, fill in our contact form and the relevant person will be in touch with you to advice on how best to tackle the next steps.