Grant Thornton's matrimonial survey shows the effects of the recession on financial settlements
Profession split as to the future for arbitration
According to Grant Thornton UK LLP's ninth annual matrimonial survey, women were significantly more likely to petition for divorce than their husbands, with 59% of family lawyers surveyed reporting a majority of applications from wives. This was however down on 2011 when 68% reported wives as the more likely petitioner. In contrast a mere 1% of respondents reported that husbands had been the primary petitioner for divorce in the past year, whilst 40% said that it was equal between husbands and wives.
The survey canvassed the opinions of 139 of the UK's leading family lawyers, as described by Grant Thornton, and was based on their client work in the 2011 calendar year.
Growing apart or falling out of love remained the most common reason for divorce for the second year running (25%) with infidelity running a close second (24%).
According to the family lawyers polled, the recession is continuing to effect divorce rates, although this is on the decline with 75% of respondents believing that couples are delaying proceedings because of it in 2012, compared to 82% in last year's survey.
The survey results also revealed that, on average, wives received more than half of the matrimonial assets in 62% of the cases compared to just 6% of husbands. However, whilst wives may be getting a bigger share, there is less to be distributed. 35% of the respondents stated that the average value of the total family assets distributed was less than £500,000 compared to just 18% of respondents two years ago.
According to the survey, the Court of Appeal judgment in Tchenguiz v Imerman; Imerman v Imerman  EWCA Civ 908 continues to cause ripples amongst the family lawyer community with 29% of respondents (compared with 22% in 2011) reporting cases where they had had knowledge of concealed assets or income but had been unable to rely on any of the documents.
When asked whether they thought arbitration would become a significant method for resolving family disputes in the next five years, opinion appeared to be split with 48% of respondents saying that it would and 52% saying that it would not.
Sally Longworth, Partner in Grant Thornton's Forensic and Investigations Services practice, commented:
"Not only is the recession driving down the value of the family home and business, financial worries are becoming a growing reason as to why couples are divorcing in the first place with 69% reporting financial strain as a significant factor, compared to 45% last year.
"One of the clearest messages however from this year's survey is the increased burden being placed on family lawyers as a result of having to explain to clients that they cannot always use the documents they have obtained. This has often resulted in the lawyers, and their clients, feeling that they have not got a fair settlement."
The survey can be viewed here.