Sorting out finances tends to be the most complex part of unravelling a marriage or civil partnership and is often the most acrimonious. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to the big question: “what am I entitled to?”
You can, of course, agree a settlement between you without involving lawyers or the Courts, but be careful. Divorce law is full of traps for the unwary. Timely specialist legal advice can save you thousands of pounds in the long run.
The starting point to discussions is to collect together all financial information, including important evidence such as each spouse’s, or civil partners, earning and mortgage capacity and the cost of re-housing.
Whilst in a divorce the Court’s overriding objective must be to be fair to both sides, if there are any minor and dependant children then their needs for secure accommodation will be paramount, even if this means being unfair to the other parent. When there is enough money and assets to go round then equality is often the fairest outcome.
A range of financial and property orders are also available for separating same-sex civil partners.
Each case is different and all the relevant factors will be taken into account such as the ages and health of each party, children, respective contributions, earning capacity, pensions, inheritances etc. It should be borne in mind that pensions are often the parties largest asset and this becomes more relevant the older the couple and the longer the marriage or partnership.
Most couples manage eventually to reach an agreement with the help of their lawyers and the judge only has to confirm his agreement for it to be legally binding. Sometimes it is necessary for a formal application for a financial settlement to be made to the Court, if only to obtain full financial disclosure from the other spouse which is vital before any meaningful negotiations can start. The applicant will usually have to attend a MIAM (Mediation Information) Session before the Court can become involved. If mediation is inappropriate or unsuccessful the Court will progress the case by giving “directions” at the first hearing. At the second hearing a judge will try to help the couple to reach an agreement often indicating his view of a reasonable potential outcome. If all else fails, a different judge will impose his decision on the couple at the final hearing.
Resolving financial disputes is often complicated and it really is essential that you consult a specialist lawyer.