Divorces in England and Wales are apparently being held up by couples sniping over supermarket penalty points and air miles as the recession bites, according to Manchester-based law firm Pannones.
In a frankly depressing press release, the lawyers claimed that the downturn in the economy had led to membership benefits ‘increasingly being regarded by spouses as joint marital assets’. Ed Kitchen, a partner at the firm, said that the bickering over loyalty points was often a ‘deal-breaker’ and increased friction for splitting couples. ‘Establishing a fair divorce settlement involves calculating what someone will lose out on as a result of not being married. Traditionally, that has meant considering things like pensions or health insurance. Now, though, people realise the value of points accrued through loyalty schemes,’ he said. People were ‘sometimes so determined to claim their share’ that they were ‘even prepared to spend court time arguing over who owns the points, regardless of whether they were built up because he or she travelled or which one did the shopping and paid the bills’. According to Pannones, there are more than 30 million Nectar or Tesco Clubcard members in the UK while more than 120 million people worldwide are thought to be part of frequent flyer programmes operated by leading airlines.
Kitchen argued that ‘the tension which such schemes had begun to generate in divorce proceedings illustrated the degree to which the recession had caused husbands and wives to consider how to maximise the proportion of marital assets with which they might start a newly single life’.
‘It wasn’t so long ago that trying to claim your spouse’s air miles was the stuff of Hollywood scripts, included to show the extremes of divorce for dramatic value. However, couples now understand that loyalty card points can be traded for or translated into things of real financial value and that makes them worth contesting.’