UK housing crash keeps unhappy couples together

Mon Jun 8, 2009 9:07am EDT
 
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Fewer British couples are filing for divorce as the sharp drop in property prices makes it hard for couples to sell a joint home and the credit crunch dampens a desire to fund two separate households, according to a study on Monday.

The study, published by Grant Thornton accountants, showed that almost half of all surveyed matrimonial lawyers believe the numbers of divorces has slumped -- and will continue to do so -- because of the financial squeeze.

"Lawyers believe they will see less couples filing for divorce during the credit crunch," said Robert Kerr, partner at Grant Thornton's Forensic and Investigation Services.

"Reasons vary but certainly the financial carve-up that follows a divorce settlement will be at the forefront of a couple's minds when contemplating divorce," he added.

Data published by the Office for National Statistics earlier this year showed that the number of people getting divorced fell from 12.2 per 1,000 couples in 2006 to 11.9 in 2007, and is currently at a 26-year low.

The survey also found newlyweds are increasingly eager to settle financial agreements ahead of tying the knot, and are steering away from pre-nuptial "lump sum agreements" which do not take the falling value of assets into account. "I can only imagine that this trend will continue to rise particularly in an economic downturn when people feel increasingly vulnerable about their financial position," said Kerr.

The number of couples that cite financial problems as a factor in their split has more than doubled in the past two years, but still lags behind other reasons including extra marital affairs, abuse, mid-life crises and other family strains, the study found.

"There is also an increasing number of people who decide to co-habit but not marry," Grant Thornton spokeswoman Suvra Datta said, but was unable to comment on whether this was down to people being less able to afford the cost of a wedding.

(Reporting by Josie Cox, Editing by Steve Addison)

 
<p>A couple embrace, as the Canary Wharf financial district is seen behind, in London January 22, 2009. REUTERS/Toby Melville</p>