Economic hardship places strain on Spanish divorces

by Peter Magee on April 2, 2014

Peter Magee

In an article published in the New York Times on 17 December 2012 titled “Hard times in Spain forcing couples to delay divorce” Dan Bilesky reports that in Spain “Couples are paying the emotional price, especially when they cannot afford to divorce.”

Bilesky says: “…divorce lawyers and therapists – as well as couples themselves – indicate that Spain’s protracted economic crisis forcing some people to stay in troubled relationships longer.”

Bilesky reports that the number of divorces in Spain in 2011 was 17% lower than in 2006 according to the Spanish Judicial Council (a National Association that represents Spanish Judges). The article reports that the divorce rate jumped in 2006 after changes to the law in 2005 made it easier to separate. However divorce rates have since fallen and many say this is due to the financial crisis.

There have even been cases according to Bilesky of couples who are unable to afford to separate “literally dividing the home in 2, by plastering tape across the floor”.

For unemployed couples Ms Pedrero a family psychologist states that it is not only the financial stress of being unemployed but also having to spend so much time together at home which makes the situation particularly intolerable.

Increasingly, divorce lawyer, Maria Jose Varela, states that instead of seeing couples that fight over who gets to keep assets they now see couples fighting over who will be left to pay the debts of the relationship.

While the financial crisis may not have hit Australia as hard as it has Spain, I personally have come across many client’s who at the initial conference with me have stated that they have delayed separating from their partner for some time due to money issues or concerns about how they would survive financially if a separation were to occur.

Unfortunately the reality is that when assets are divided there is not as much to go around.

In matters where the former matrimonial home is sold, proceeds divided and both parties have to buy their own properties, it is unlikely that both of them are both going to be able to buy a property that is equivalent to what they had before.

Whilst the situation in Australia may not have reached the level of that in Spain, I have also met clients who have been concerned about separation due to financial issues created by global financial crises such as redundancies and so forth. Some clients are waiting till their partner is able to find employment again so they are not at risk of paying spouse maintenance.

There are multiple reasons why people have reconciled or tried to make relationships work including both financial reasons and also frequently I have seen clients stay together “for the sake of the children” or at least have wanted to stay together until the children reach 18 and/or finish the HSC.

That being said, as this article discusses being forced to live separated under the one roof can also be a very miserable situation.

Some couples who live separated under the one roof are able to do so more successfully than others depending on how amicable their relationship is with their ex-partner and/or the nature and layout of their house, for example, if one can live self contained in the house upstairs (with own bedroom and bathroom) and the other can live downstairs.

If you do have questions in relation to separating from your partner and what kind of outcome you might be likely to receive in relation to property, or if you have questions regarding property and divorce generally, please contact us at Armstrong Legal on (02)9261 4555 to book an initial obligation free appointment.

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