If you and your partner are going through a divorce or a civil partnership dissolution and simply can’t agree on on the divorce finances and how to sort out the division of your property and assets, you can apply to the Courts who are able to make a range of orders. These include orders for cash payments, transfer of property or other assets, maintenance and pension sharing and splitting.
But as you’ll see below, it’s really important to put every effort into reaching a financial settlement without needing to end up in a contested hearing in court. Because if you need to rely on a contested court hearing, that will involve considerable legal costs, plenty of stress and far more delay than is necessary.
Don’t forget that here at Bonallack & Bishop, that first phone call, and your first 30 minute, face-to-face or on Zoom, are both FREE. Call us now on FREEPHONE 0800 1404544 or one of our local office numbers. We can help you wherever you live in England and Wales
The Court process when you can’t agree on the divorce finances
If you really can’t reach a settlement on the divorce finances, then the procedure you will need to follow is:
• The Courts will impose a timetable and you may be advised to issue an application to ensure that negotiations do not become too protracted
• After the application has been issued you and your partner should complete a huge and comprehensive document entitled Form E (which sets out all your financial details) and also produce copies of documents such as bank or building society statements, pay slips, valuations and accounts. Don’t worry, your divorce solicitor can help you with this horrendous form.
Both parties are expected to provide what is referred to as “full and frank disclosure“. That means that you are under an obligation to be honest about your financial position – and should not try to hide assets. If you fail to comply with full and frank disclosure, the court have a number of powers to make you comply and can penalise you if you fail to provide full details of your assets
• The Courts will then fix a First Directions Appointment (FDA) before a District Judge for twelve weeks following issue of the application, in order to identify the issues between you and make orders such as dealing with the valuation of your assets
• If an agreement cannot be reached, the next stage is a Financial Dispute Resolution appointment (FDR) which you both must attend
• With the assistance of your divorce lawyer, the District Judge will attempt to assist you on reaching an agreement on your finances and usually indicate what they think would be a reasonable outcome
• Should agreement still not be reachable at this stage a final hearing with a different District Judge will be set. This may well involve a wait of several months, however if an agreement is reached at any time prior to the final hearing, a note of the agreement (Consent Order) can be submitted to the Judge for approval
Want to understand more about Divorce and Money? How family assets are divided? Click here to read more about Divorce and Finances.
Can’t agree on divorce finances ? Could family mediation be the answer?
We are big fans of the whole mediation process. We are absolutely convinced, that for a large number of people, mediation simply provides a better alternative to the traditional court service.
Why? In our experience it’s usually quicker, cheaper, and in emphasising the need for compromise on agreement, reduces bitterness and relationship breakdown, and really helps children – who know that their parents have worked together to come up with a fair solution. But it’s fair to say that mediation doesn’t work for everyone.
Want to know more about how this form of alternative dispute resolution could work for you? Click here to find more about family mediation
Divorce finances – what sort of settlement is a clean break?
Sometimes financial arrangements can be settled through a ‘clean break’, i.e. a lump sum payment and/or property transfer which effectively ends the financial relationship between you and your partner. Nevertheless, the welfare of any dependent children will always be given primary consideration and maintenance can be ordered to one party by the court on either an open-ended (during joint lives or until the person receiving the payments remarries or enters a new civil partnership) or fixed period basis.
It is very important to consult specialist Divorce Solicitors whilst negotiating a settlement as the process can be costly and time-consuming. Our team of dedicated family lawyers provide expert legal advice that will help secure your future financial position and well being. And the head of the family team is, as well as being a highly experienced solicitor, a District Judge – so you can rely on our team to really understand how the courts approach the question of divorce finances.
Click here to read more about divorce and how our family law solicitors can help you
My husband/wife refuses to complete Form E. What can I do?
Filing for divorce is never an easy decision, and the process can be made even more complicated when your spouse refuses to cooperate.
One of the most critical documents in a divorce case is Form E, as explained above. Unfortunately it’s not unknown for the other side to simply refuse to fill out Form E.
But if that happens, don’t worry – because there are number of options available to you.
Firstly your solicitor should remind the other side of the potential consequences of failing to file a complete Form E
Secondly they should ask court to grant a costs order for any wasted hearings – and in the absence of a Form E, your First Directions Appointment in any application to settle divorce finances will be largely wasted.
At the first hearing, your solicitor can also ask for what is known as “a penal notice” attached to a direction for the other side to file their Form E. This is serious. Failure to comply with a penal notice can result in the other side being held in contempt of court. And that carries really serious consequences such as imprisonment, fines, or asset seizure.
What is a Private Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment –how could it help if you can’t agree
The hugely lengthy delays currently involved in waiting for a contested final hearing are hugely stressful. And by dragging things out, legal costs are normally increased.
Whilst the ideal conclusion is an agreed financial settlement following negotiation or mediation, there is another alternative if you really can’t come to any agreement between you. That’s the Private Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment (or FDR).
A private FDR is a direct alternative to a contested court hearing as a method of reaching a settlement on divorce finances. But instead of relying on a judge, instead the parties pay an independent person to hold a “hearing”. The “judge” in this type of hearing is often a Barrister (quite often a Barrister who sits regularly as a judge themselves), or a retired judge. They will consider all the written evidence and then give an independent, third-party view on what they feel is the likely improper outcome of the case. This is not binding in itself, it does give a real chance for the parties to consider the “judge’s verdict” and then try to negotiate a settlement face-to-face with the help of their solicitors.
Any agreed settlement would then normally be drafted up in the form of an order for approval by the actual Court.
Our advice? If you really can’t reach a settlement, a private FDR is definitely worth considering. Our team (headed by a solicitor who is also a serving deputy district judge), can help you arrange and be represented at this kind of hearing.
What is a consent order – and why do I need one ?
A consent order is a very important aspect of your divorce, as it sets out the terms of how the assets of the marriage will be split.
Even if the Courts do not need to intervene in the formation of the agreement, they must still approve it to make the Consent Order legally binding (and very difficult to change – in general terms impossible to overturn on a certain highly specific circumstances apply).
It is important to realise that when if you get divorced, in the future you have the right to make financial claims against your ex-spouse; and your ex-spouse has the right to make financial claims against you – unless these are dismissed by means of a court order.
The worst scenario is having gone through divorce to then receive a letter from their former spouse’s Solicitor trying to make an additional financial claims against you. This could happen even if you have already sold the matrimonial home, split the proceeds equally and went on to live separate lives!
Prevention is certainly better than cure. Although the cost of a getting a Consent Order varies significantly depending on the complexities of the issues involved in its creation, it will be much more cost-effective to have a Consent Order in place from the outset. Litigation over matters that you thought were previously agreed can quickly become expensive.
Click here to read more about divorce finances following marriage breakup
Did the 2022 reform to divorce laws have any effect on financial issues?
No – the changes were limited to divorce itself, including removing the need to prove grounds for divorce and allowing, for the 1st time, a joint application for divorce. But those changes had no impact whatsoever on how the courts approach the issue of dividing family finances on divorce.
Divorce – 12 key questions to help assess your legal options
Confused about what you want out of your relationship breakdown?
It’s a difficult emotional time and confusion is common response. Resolution, (the organisation for specialist family lawyers nationwide), have produced a really useful set of 12 crucial questions to ask yourself about divorce. Click here to read those key divorce questions.
Can’t Agree on the Divorce Finances? Make Sure You Get the Right Advice. Call Us Now
Safeguard your legal position – get in touch with our divorce lawyers today to find out how we can help reduce the stress that follows family breakdown.
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