The inaugural Pandemic Lawyer of the Week Award goes to the solicitor who has called for unhappily married business owners to divorce their partners during the coronavirus lockdown so they can take advantage of the tanking economy.
The tip was provided by a partner at McAlister Family Law, in an article headed 'Business Matters: Is there ever a good time to get divorced?' If you thought the answer was, "It certainly isn't while I have to continue living with them in isolation", you'd be wrong.
The partner advised astute UK business owners to jettison their increasingly unbearable spouses right this instant. "You may well achieve a more advantageous settlement if you divorce now than if you divorce when the economy is doing well", she explained. With the UK economy in such a dire state, companies will generally be valued less than they otherwise would. And that means it will cost less to buy out that unwanted other half.
The two main components of the lockdown - sniping and memes.
But the unique circumstances that are driving more couples than usual towards a divorce also mean splitting up now may be a very bad idea indeed. "If a marriage ends it is usually a difficult time emotionally and financially for all involved", acknowledges the article, failing to note that it will be even more difficult if the newly-divorced couple have to continue to live together indefinitely while confined within their home.
The partner replied that the article was written in response to "a huge spike in enquires from both male and female business owners concerned about how the current economic climate would impact them and their spouse on divorce".
Asked if the firm expected people to divorce now and live with each other in quarantine, she said, "Sadly, many separated and divorced people are living together at the moment". But, "whilst we do not know how long we will be in lock down, it is highly unlikely that anyone would be able to divorce during this period”. She said the divorce process usually takes at least 6 months, but can take over a year.
Responding to the suggestion that it seemed unpleasant to tout divorce on the basis that the partner would get less, the partner said that if a business owner wanted to keep control of their company, they may have to raise money to buy out their spouse’s interest, and "less money will have to be borrowed if the value of the business has gone down". The non-business owner "is likely to retain other assets", she said, "such as property and pensions, which are also likely to increase in value when the economy improves."
Nevertheless, the mercenary advice has since been amended, and the article now bears the more neutral headline, "Business Matters: Economic uncertainty and divorce".