What impact is the cost-of-living crisis having on clients' relationships?

Spiralling living costs are adding increased pressures on relationships

What impact is the cost-of-living crisis having on clients' relationships?

As the cost-of-living crisis continues to worsen, homeowners’ finances are expected to deteriorate, with little support in place to help them through this difficult period.

The impact felt to homeowners can be felt in a variety of ways, as there are many contributing factors which can exacerbate the situation, such as having a poorer Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating on their home.

Ellen Fell (pictured), senior associate solicitor at Hall Brown Family Law, explained it is widely known that financial worries have always been a concern for couples, however, she said that spiralling living costs are undoubtedly adding increased pressure to many relationships. 

“Sadly, due to extra funds being few and far between, and difficulties arising with maintaining the family home, relationships are coming under pressure,” Fell said.

In some cases, Fell outlined that couples may decide to physically separate without taking steps to formalise their separation and the financial matters that flow from it.

Or, she noted, couples may make the decision to stay in a broken relationship, simply because they do not understand the legal options available to them, fear they cannot afford a divorce, or are worried about the prospect of living alone.

Read more: How is the cost-of-living crisis impacting homeowners?

“At Hall Brown Family Law, we have experienced high volumes of enquiries over the past couple of months, which in part seem to be connected to the strain of the cost-of-living crisis,” she added.

Fell explained that the pressures of the financial landscape can result in people postponing seeking legal advice at an early stage due to concerns about the associated costs. However, she noted that avoiding doing so can simply fuel a lack of certainty and security. According to Fell, obtaining expert advice at an early stage is invaluable and can often save money in the long run, and she said that there are a number of options that can be explored when clients find themselves in this position.

“Forms of Alternative Dispute Resolutions (ADR), such as mediation, collaborative law or arbitration, can often be a good way to reach a resolution or at least narrow the issues,” she said.

For example, Fell explained that mediation can be an extremely effective way of helping some clients to resolve disputes as amicably as possible.

“Giving individuals the opportunity to sit down together to discuss their concerns with the assistance of a mediator, once they have had the benefit of legal advice, can be a cost-effective way of concluding a realistic and workable solution, enabling both parties to move forward with their independent lives,” Fell added.

For others, she believes the cost-of-living crisis may accelerate relationships, with couples taking steps to cohabit and pool their resources.

Fell outlined that it is as equally important for those individuals to take advice to understand the implications of doing so and to protect their assets.

“An effective way to achieve this is by entering into a cohabitation agreement. This is a legal document between unmarried couples in which they can set out intentions regarding finances, property, and children, while living together and in the event of a separation,” she said.

Whilst you can enter a cohabitation agreement at any time, Fell said it is always best to get ahead and do it before moving in together, as she noted having this agreement in place protects the client, and any other family members who might be affected.

Read more: Supporting homeowners through the cost-of-living crisis

She noted that financial advisers often find themselves dealing with clients who require family law advice, and there are many unanswered questions clients may have.

“Financially, it is always in the best interest of the client to seek legal advice at the earliest possible time to safeguard their finances, understand all the options available to them and allow for future plans to exist,” she concluded.