Parents cause acrimony when children divorce

We have commented previously on the rise in recent times of so-called ‘silver divorces’ – couples who decide to split when they reach retirement age.  The Daily Telegraph has recently reported on this, saying that when couples divorce after a long marriage the fall-out can be especially challenging for their children.  However in my experience it is when the younger generation divorces that the input of relatives has most impact on the way a divorce will be conducted.

I often see clients who come along to the first meeting with a relative.  Whilst additional support is essential at what can be a difficult time, well-meaning relatives can sometimes throw a spanner in the works for those wishing to divorce quickly and in a conciliatory way.

The recent report suggests that adult children fight tooth and nail to protect and preserve their ‘inheritance’ when their parents divorce, causing acrimony and dispute where there otherwise would be none.  However, more often I see younger clients in the company of one of their parents who has (or claims to have) a financial interest in one of the matrimonial assets, usually the house.  The parent’s original financial assistance can give rise to a conflict of interest, not only in relation to the estranged daughter or son-in-law’s claims, but also their own child’s.

According to data published earlier this year by the Office for National Statistics, although divorce among older people may be rising, the divorce rate peaks for those between their 4th and 8th wedding anniversaries.

Particularly for those who married or formed serious relationships since the economic downturn in 2008, financial assistance from parents has been the only way some couples have been able to purchase their home together.  This gives rise to potentially complicated trusts of land, either documented or undocumented, which can cause additional wrangling when the couple subsequently separates or divorces.

Further, financial assistance from parents by way of loans or gifts is more and more often accompanied by a nuptial or living together agreement, particularly when the spouse also stands to inherit substantial wealth in due course.  The agreement records the financial assistance in the event that the couple later separates, in the hope of protecting the family’s contributions.  Although the evidential value of such agreements is greater now than at any time previously, the existence of third party rights inevitably makes resolving family disputes more costly and time-consuming.

If you are contemplating divorcing or separating from your partner, and are concerned about third party claims or the impact of an existing nuptial or living together agreement, please contact us for a free, no obligation consultation.

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