Moving home can add £144,600 to divorce bill

Michael Lloyd

January 11, 2018

After legal fees, the most common cost when a relationship ends is setting up a new home, 40% of couples reported.

Aviva’s family finances report showed moving out of the marital home can add £144,600 to this bill on average for those 16% buying a new property, and more than £35,000 for those 51% renting.

Paul Brencher, Aviva UK health and protection director, said: “The breakdown of a marriage or long-term relationship is likely to be one of the most emotionally demanding life events for people who experience it. Such circumstances are made all the harder due to the lack of preparedness by many.

“Without taking away from the primary emotional strain, there are other significant costs which have the potential to cause further disruption to family units.

“Aside from the costs of a new home, separating couples across the UK spend £1.7bn getting back on their feet after the breakdown of a relationship on costs including legal fees, buying a car or paying for a newfound need for childcare.

“As a consequence, it is little surprise that they are drawn towards their savings for support or borrowing from friends and family. Many additionally find themselves priced out of the property market.”

The majority (68%) of couples who divorce or separate have financial issues to resolve, with the process taking on average 14 and a half months, three months longer than in 2014. Over a third (34%) stated they found the process worse than expected.

Nearly half (46%) of home-owning couples sell their property leading to both partners having to find a new home. This is in addition to those who move out while their partner stays in the former joint home.

One in six (16%) buy a new home after separation, with an average cost of £144,600 per person, rising from £94,100 in 2014. This is significantly lower than the average UK house price of £226,185, suggesting the likelihood that people are downsizing to a smaller property.

Brencher added: “While it may seem completely unnecessary to plan for such an unfortunate life event, it is important that both partners in a relationship take an active interest in their financial affairs, even if one tends to take the lead.

“Ensuring a better mutual understanding of household finances can make navigating the process more manageable if the relationship takes an unforeseen turn, while preventing long-term financial planning from going off course.”

More than half (51%) move to the rental market after their divorce or separation, spending an average of £7,519 each year on rent.

While individual circumstances will differ, the average time spent as a tenant post-separation is 4.7 years. Almost one in five (19%) rent for more than a decade after splitting with their former partner.

Of those currently renting as a result of their split, seven in ten (70%) feel that they will be unlikely to buy a property in the future.

And 16% of couples remain living together in the same house since they can’t afford to move.

This is more common in London (28%), where property prices are far higher than the national average, with two fifths (39%) having carried on this arrangement for longer than three months.

Nearly one in three (31%) of those who have split say they have dipped into their savings for financial support, while over a quarter (26%) admit using credit cards for this reason.

Moreover, 6% have resorted to cancelling or cutting back their protection cover. The same number cancelling or reducing their pension contributions to supplement income after they separate.

The findings come as the latest official data showed the number of divorces in England and Wales rose for the first time since 2009, increasing by 6% between 2015 and 2016 to 106,959.

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