Financial disputes within Divorce proceedings make divorce an adversarial process. The aim should be to negotiate a settlement that reasonably provides for each party and which divides the matrimonial assets fairly.
If you are the main or sole earner in a marriage, continuing to support your spouse financially before reaching final agreement should not have an adverse effect on the final agreement, though failing to provide necessary support may affect you adversely. Thus, if you are financially dependent on your spouse, you should ask for appropriate arrangements to be made. If he/she refuses to do so you can apply to the court for an interim financial order to meet your reasonable financial needs until final agreement is reached or an order of the Court is made in this respect.
There are also some immediate steps you can take to protect yourself:
- Close all joint bank and credit card accounts – if you are worried that your spouse will abuse them (you should make arrangements for your spouse’s reasonable financial needs at the same time).
- If your spouse is the sole owner of the matrimonial home, you may be able register an interest at the Land Registry to prevent it being disposed-off without your agreement.
- Obtain immediate legal advice if you think your spouse is trying to hide assets.
< In addition, the parent who no longer lives with the children will normally provide the financial support. You maynegotiate an agreement on child maintenance between yourselves or through the Child Support Agency.
Whether one party is ‘at fault’ for the breakdown of the marriage rarely has any impact on what is legally considered to be a reasonable financial settlement. The factors to be taken into account (apart from the needs of children) include:
- Each spouse’s income and other financial resources.
- Each spouse’s financial needs.
- How long you have been
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married and how old each spouse is.
- The contribution each spouse has made.
- The family’s standard of living prior to the breakdown of the marriage.
Negotiating a divorce settlement is always easier when parties can co-operate or can mediate through the services of an accredited Mediator. The process is also greatly assisted by both parties disclosing their financial positions early on in the proceedings. There is no set time limit on the financial negotiations. Once parties have reached agreement, it is very important that they apply to the court for a ‘consent order’ recording the settlement they have reached. In concluding the divorce settlement, the issues you need to consider would include:
- Who will retain the family home, or whether it will be sold to provide assets for both of you.
- Whether either of you will pay continuing maintenance to the other, or whether it is preferable to agree a one-off lump sum payment instead, i.e. a clean break.
- What financial arrangements will be made for any dependent children.
- How any pension fund entitlements will be shared out.
- What will be done about any life insurance or other investment policies.
If you are negotiating maintenance payments, remember that such payments are uncertain, for example: your spouse could apply to change the payments if circumstances change, you would normally cease receiving maintenance if you remarried, and maintenance would cease if your former spouse dies.
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before finalising any financial remedy in Divorce you should take legal advice to ensure that you clearly understand its overall effect on your long-term financial position.