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Financial settlements for separating couples

Stephensons have a team of financial settlement solicitors who are able to advise, support and represent couples who need help sorting out their finances. Our solicitors are accredited by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Resolution as specialising in the division of assets as well as having many years experience in this area of work.

We recognise that couples want choice and control over how to work through decisions about their assets and offer methods of dispute resolution in addition to skilled negotiation and representation in court proceedings.

Speak to our financial settlement solicitors on 01616 966 229 for advice.

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What is a financial settlement?

A financial settlement is essentially who gets what, when a couple separate and involves decisions about how their assets should be divided. The separating couple can be married partners, civil partners or they can be partners who have lived together. When there is a decision to separate inevitably there will be a need to look at how their assets should be shared. What is a reasonable settlement to meet the children’s needs and to enable both to move on into the next stage of their lives?

How to reach a financial settlement

There are a number of ways to reach a financial settlement. There is a misconception that being involved in decisions about money and finances has to be time of argument and distress. Settlements can be agreed by a couple themselves or with advice and help from a solicitor, or by a couple engaging in mediation or a collaborative process. A settlement can be formalised into a legally binding Court order without the need for anyone to set foot inside a Court building.

There are occasions when it is not possible to reach agreement for a number of reasons.  When this occurs an application can be made to Court to resolve any area of dispute. Just because an application has been made, does not prevent a couple from reaching agreement. However the Court can decide what should happen with the assets and make what is considered to be a reasonable order.

What sort of orders are there?

The payment of a regular sum of money by one to the other, usually weekly or monthly, either for their benefit or for the benefit of the children. This is known as a periodical payments order or put more simply, maintenance.

Having decided that there is entitlement to maintenance the Court can take steps in advance to ensure the money will actually be paid. This can be done by a secured periodical payments order.

The payment of a specific sum of money. This is known as a lump sum order. This order can be made by way of compensation for an interest in a property, the house contents, savings and investments.

The transferring of property from one to the other, or adjusting ownership of property between the couple or giving one of them a specific interest in property. This is most commonly used in relation to the family home although there are all sorts of property which can be made subject to this order for example, holiday home, car or shares. This is known as a property adjustment order.

After the family home, one of the other most valuable assets can be a pension and the Court now has a number of ways in which to deal with those.  These are known as pension sharing orders but can also include pension off-setting, or orders for pension attachment or ear marking.

Financial agreement and settlement FAQs

What am I entitled to if I divorce my husband or wife?

If your marriage breaks down, so you decide to divorce, there are no absolute rules dividing assets in a divorce in the UK. However, there are some principles that are usually followed and it is important that a financial settlement is deemed ‘fair’ to both parties taking into account all circumstances.

How much money will I receive in the settlement?

There is no set formula for calculating financial settlements or orders. Instead, the court has a very wide discretion as to what orders it can make when assessing financial settlements. The courts take a large range of factors into account including any child, needs of the parties, resources, the length of your marriage and your respective contributions. We can advise you on how these factors apply to you.

What am I entitled to in a divorce settlement if all assets are in one partner’s name?

The division of assets in a divorce can be a complex area. For example, if one partner entered the marriage already owning a property, and that property was then the marital home, the other partner may have a claim to at least a portion of its value, even if they are not named on the title deeds or mortgage. How a house is divided in divorce, or how any other assets are split, will depend on a wide variety of factors. Get expert legal advice now by getting in touch with the team at Stephensons today.

What should I do if I find out that my husband or wife is getting rid of assets?

You should seek immediate legal advice as it is possible to apply to the court to freeze your spouse's assets or to get things back if they have already been sold.

What do I do if I am worried my husband or wife will not provide full disclosure of their assets?

It is very important that there is a full exchange of financial disclosure. An individual may try and frustrate this and provide incomplete of misleading information.  We are able to recognise the signs of non-disclosure and devise proportionate strategies to deal with this.

In some cases, either party may deliberately dissipate assets or attempt to remove them from the country. It may be necessary to get an injunction to stop such action and safeguard assets until a financial settlement can be reached.

What happens to my pension rights on divorce?

A pension is considered an asset within divorce. There are various different options when it comes to dividing a pension and who has a claim for what. It can be a complex area and it’s recommended that you seek expert advice from a family law solicitor to ensure that you have all the information you need for your individual circumstances.

Do I need a solicitor if we have agreed a financial settlement between ourselves?

It is always advisable to have the agreement which you have reached embodied in a financial consent order to prevent your husband or wife from changing their mind and making further financial claims against you in the future.

How is a house divided in a divorce?

Unlike some other assets, a family home can be treated differently in a divorce settlement agreement, especially if children are involved. The courts will always look at what is in the best interests of children first and may issue a property adjustment order as part of the financial settlement between parents.

Can I obtain a financial court order even if we decide not to get divorced?

Unfortunately, if there are no proceedings relating to the marriage then it is not possible to obtain a court order. However, it is possible for the financial agreement reached to be incorporated into a separation agreement.

Is a prenuptial agreement the same as a court order?

Prenuptial agreements are still not legally binding under English law. However, they are increasingly being considered and upheld by the courts where they have been properly prepared and provided both parties have taken separate independent legal advice and the terms within the agreement are fair and reasonable.

What do financial orders mean in divorce?

Getting a financial order in divorce settlements is the only way to ensure that any financial obligations between you and a former spouse are legally settled.  A financial order is an arrangement under which a couple’s assets and financial affairs are separated upon divorce.

On a divorce, nullity, judicial separation and dissolution of civil partnership, the court has power to make an order for financial settlement. The court does not have the power to make a capital order or a final financial order until a decree has been pronounced, but can make an order for interim maintenance with effect from the date of the petition.

Why do I need a court order?

It is important to ensure that your divorce financial settlement is recorded in court order, otherwise financial claims could be brought against you, regardless of how long ago the divorce took place. There is no time limit on making these claims. It is only with a binding court order setting out the arrangements and dismissing each party’s claims against the other (a clean break) is made that you can be certain to achieve finality.  

How long will it take to get my financial settlement?

If there is an agreement, then the court should be able to make your court order any time from the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi, though it will not take effect until the Decree Absolute. This process normally takes between 6 and 8 months from start to finish. However, if you are not in agreement, and particularly if your spouse is not willing to disclose their financial position, then it can take much longer; up to 12 to 18 months or more.

How do you split assets in a divorce?

There is no set formula as to how assets should be split.  Certain criteria has to be taken into account when negotiating a financial settlement.  How this is applied, varies according to the circumstances of each case and case law. This will all be balanced by the court when determining a settlement.

Where family’s resources do not meet both spouses’ needs, the needs of the economically weaker spouse (often the primary carer for any children) are usually given higher priority in allocation of resources – this is the needs approach.

On a lengthy marries, where there is a surplus of assets, a proposition of equal division based on contribution is often considered the fairest. 

What will my financial settlement include?

A settlement can comprise of three main elements; periodical payments (maintenance), capital orders (lump sum and/or transfer of property) and long term security (pension attachment and pension sharing orders, provision of life insurance).

What is a clean break?

In some cases, all three elements are bound together in a one-off settlement and neither party can make further claims against the other. This is commonly referred to as a “clean break”. 

How will my settlement be achieved?

The majority of financial settlements are agreed after negotiation.  Regardless of the form of negotiations, including directly between the parties, at mediation and solicitor-led negotiations, the criteria utilised by the court are key in setting out the parameters for any settlement.  It is firstly important to have full and frank exchange of financial disclosure of both parties.  The terms of settlement needs to be broadly fair in light of all relevant circumstances.  There is not a presumption for an equal division of assets and many factors may mean this would not be a fair outcome.

Can you settle financially before divorce?

A financial settlement is available at any time during the divorce proceedings, so after the divorce has been finalised or even before. In most divorce cases, a financial settlement can be agreed (and settled by a judge) at the same time as divorce proceedings. Whenever you choose to get a financial settlement, it is advised that a divorced couple seeks one before either party decides to re-marry.

Is there a time limit on divorce settlement?

There is no time limit on a divorce settlement. It’s important, however, to be aware that once Decree Absolute has been granted, the financial claim still remains open, so getting a financial settlement and dividing assets in divorce in the UK, as soon as possible, is advised.

Can you get a divorce without a financial settlement?

You can but it is not advised. Even if there are no assets to split, it is recommended that a financial settlement is reached to avoid problems later down the line.

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