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What happens if you lose your job during divorce?

There are few times in life when your finances will come under greater scrutiny than during divorce.

In order to negotiate a fair financial settlement between you and your former partner, it is necessary to declare your income in full, along with all your financial assets, on the famous Form E, a document that anyone who has been through a divorce will recall vividly.

But what happens if financial disaster strikes during this complex process? What happens, in short, if you lose your job – or your spouse does? Finding oneself unemployed is always a stressful event –your life has been turned upside down after all. But if the axe falls right in the middle of complex divorce negotiations, the pressure is doubled. You may fear that the settlement will impose financial obligations on you that you will no longer be able to meet – or you may worry that you will be left high and dry by an ex no longer able to pay the spousal or child maintenance on which you were counting.

Here is our advice on handling this stressful situation:

  • Try not to panic! As ever in life, a clear head will take you a long way towards finding solutions to the thorniest of problems.
  • Be open and honest about what has happened – with your former partner, with their solicitor if they have one, with yours if have one – and with the family courts in general. Don’t try to conceal the situation: the situation will only get worse.
  • Explain the circumstances in which you came to lose your job: is your former employer experiencing difficulties, downsizing staff? Be ready to demonstrate with records that you are making solid effort to find new and comparable employment. Comparable’ is a key word here: a Judge will expect you to make every effort to meet the financial obligations you would have had to your former spouse if you had not lost your job – and do to so as soon as possible. You don’t want them concluding that you may be responsible for the situation in some way – or that you engineered the job loss in order to reduce the costs of your divorce. If, on the other hand, you are sincere, you will be in a good position to argue that your financial responsibilities within the settlement should reflect your new circumstances until you find fresh employment.
  • Try and reach a reasonable and realistic agreement with your former spouse. Incorporate the job loss into the financial settlement – if you genuinely cannot do so at present, add a statement to the effect that you will pay a reasonable amount of maintenance or support once you or they have found new work and for this to be at a level which is fair to reflect your actual income and ability to pay.
  • Equally, if you as the lower paid spouse is newly unemployed, it is equally fair for this to be reflected in additional maintenance or support from the better off husband or wife – but again, only if the loss occurred through no fault of your own and sufficient efforts have been made to secure an alternative role.
  • If you have not already done so, seek expert legal advice as soon as you can. The situation may not be as bleak as it seems!

If you would like to discuss a change in your circumstances with one of our partners, please contact us on 01223 443333.