Divorce settlements in Ireland are not what they once were, top divorce lawyers are reporting. While multi-million euro divorce settlements were common during the Celtic Tiger years, the value of settlements are now less than half what they were before the economy tanked, reports the Irish Independent.
The collapse of the country's property market is largely to blame says Muriel Wall, partner with family law firm Walls and Toomey.
"We've gone back to the sort of settlements we had in the late 1980s and early 1990s when courts wanted to know that you had a roof over your head and enough money to put food on the table," said Ms Wall, who has specialised in family law for more than 30 years.
"Property is the main asset in between 50 and 80pc of divorce cases. Property values have gone down by about half since the boom – so many divorce settlements have gone down by more than that."
According to solicitor David Bergin, of the Dublin firm O'Connor & Bergin, enormous settlements after a divorce are a thing of the past.
"Multi million-euro cases were much more common during the boom," said Mr Bergin. "Now there are virtually none."
This means the number of couples applying to the High Court for a divorce has also been halved, according to Jennifer O'Brien, partner with the law firm Mason Hayes & Curran.
"The vast majority of family law cases are dealt with in the Circuit Court," she told the Irish Independent. "However, if the assets are worth more than €3m or if there are complex legal issues, there's a tendency to issue proceedings in the High Court instead. These High Court (divorce) cases have definitely reduced in number – but there are still a number of cases being settled in the High Court."
She added that divorcing couples can no longer hold to settlements agreed to during more prosperous times.
"More applications are being made to the courts to review settlements agreed at the height of the boom."
Many divorcing couples have to agree to temporary arrangements due to the stalled property market.
"In the Celtic Tiger years, the family home was usually sold for a good price and the proceeds divided between the couple," said Ms Wall. "That's now been replaced by very few house sales and even where a sale occurs, it is at a much lower price than before so it doesn't allow either spouse to buy another property.
"Another classic type of divorce settlement in the Celtic Tiger years was the buyout, where one spouse would borrow money to buy the other spouse out. That was possible when the banks were lending money for buyouts but that's not happening anymore."
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