Frequently Asked Questions in Family Law: Financial Matters

1. “Financial relief” – What does this mean?

To ensure you have no legal obligations towards your ex-spouse financially, you should always address financial matters.

The main objective for each party is to try and achieve a clean break, which simply means once the terms of the final financial Order are complied with, you will no longer be financially tied to your ex-spouse.

You should resolve financial matters as swiftly as possible, however, bear in mind that any agreement reached on a voluntary basis will need to be approved by the Court if it is to be legally binding. Before a court can consider a financial agreement, you must have reached the Decree Nisi stage of your divorce.

2. Do I need to attend court?

You can negotiate with your ex-spouse outside of the Court arena to reach an agreement. However, for the agreement to become legally binding you will have to lodge a Consent Order with the Court. The Judge will then review the same and decide whether it is still necessary for you and your ex-spouse to attend a short hearing.

If you are unable to reach an agreement by way of negotiation, you can attempt mediation. If mediation is also unsuccessful, you will obtain a ‘sign off’ form from the mediator which will allow you to make a formal application to the Court to resolve financial matters.

You will need to attend each court hearing if you issue a financial application. There is usually a maximum of three hearings.

3. What does the Court deal with?

The Court has the power to make an Order in relation to the following:

Capital – This includes the former matrimonial home, savings, stocks, bonds, money in the bank etc.

Spousal Maintenance – This is determined on a case by case basis. If you are seeking spousal maintenance, the Court will look at what your reasonable outgoings are and whether you can meet those outgoings having regard to all your income sources. If you cannot meet your outgoings, then the Court will consider your ex-spouse’s income and whether there is a surplus once all their outgoings are met. If there is a surplus, then the Court may award spousal maintenance.

Generally, the Court wants each party to achieve independence and therefore any spousal maintenance award is only likely to be for a termed period.

Pensions – The Court can make the following orders in relation to pensions:

  • Pension sharing Order – One spouse will give the other a percentage of their pension fund to enable equality of income or equality of capital upon retirement to take effect.
  • Offsetting – The ex-spouse with the smaller or no pension fund may opt to offset their claim against the other’s pension by taking a larger proportion of the capital available.
  • Attachment – This type of order is rarely used nowadays. If you do opt for this option, you will receive an income from your ex-spouse’s pension once it is in payment.

4. How much will it cost?

This depends on how amicable matters are between you and your ex-spouse. At MSB we always strongly advise parties to enter a financial disclosure process to ensure both parties are fully aware of the other’s financial position before making any formal proposals for settlement.

If you instruct a solicitor, you will likely be charged on an hourly basis. You will also likely have to pay to attend mediation. The mediator’s costs will vary depending on the mediator instructed.

The court fee to lodge your financial application with the Court is currently £255.

5. How long will the process take?

Again, this depends on whether full financial disclosure is provided from the outset and how amicable you and your ex-spouse are.

This also depends on whether there are any delays with the Court and judicial availability. Generally, we would estimate it take six to 12 months to resolve financial matters if a court application is required.

This estimate may increase if experts need to be instructed to prepare reports for the Court such as chartered accountants, surveyors, actuaries etc.

If you have any further questions and would like to arrange an appointment for an initial free of charge appointment, then please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Family team.

We have a broad range of expertise that can help you