First Steps in a Divorce Financial Settlement
When a marriage ends you will need to agree how the family finances are divided. This is a simple sentence to write, but, in many cases, a very difficult thing to do.
If you can agree how to divide family assets without going to court, this should help you avoid some of the time, cost and stress often associated with financial settlements on divorce. You can still take legal advice about the agreement, to make sure your rights are not being compromised, and you can even make the agreement legally binding, your solicitor should convert your agreement into a Consent Order, to be sealed by the court.
However, many divorcing couples are unable to reach an agreement and the financial settlement negotiations quickly become acrimonious and traumatic.
Here, we look at the first steps you will need to take if you're planning to apply to the court for a financial order on divorce.
1. Speak to a divorce solicitor
Making sure you have the right representation for you and your particular situation is key in a divorce financial settlement. Your divorce solicitor will be assisting you throughout the proceedings and it is important you instruct someone who is experienced in this area of law.
You should spend some time choosing a solicitor so that you find one with whom you are sufficiently comfortable to talk to openly and honestly.
2. Mediation meeting
If you are applying to the court for a financial order you will need to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (known as a MIAM). If, after the MIAM, you still feel you need to apply to the court you can move on with the next steps.
3. Notice of application – Form A
Unless your former partner has already applied, you will need to complete a Form A, Notice of Application. When completed, you will need to send three copies to the court along with the court fee.
4. Notice of First Appointment
The court will set a date for your First Directions Appointment (FDA) and notify you and your former partner. This is your first court hearing. If you are concerned that your partner may start to hide or dispose of assets to prevent you from benefitting during the financial settlement, you should speak to your divorce solicitor as soon as possible. You may be able to seek a freezing injunction to prevent disposal of assets.
5. Financial Statement – Form E
Both parties will be required to send a Financial Statement in Form E to the court at least five weeks before the first appointment. This is a comprehensive declaration of your financial position and must include full details of your properties, savings, debts, income and pensions. Full financial disclosure is key to a divorce financial settlement and any attempts to hide financial information or to mislead the court about your situation, could have serious implications later on.
Form E consists of several sections as follows:
- Section 1 – General Information: About you (including health conditions and any previous court proceedings) and your children.
- Section 2 – Financial Details: All financial information about your personal wealth and assets, and those you hold with your partner. This section has sub-sections to help you know what to include. You will need to provide various documents to support the information you give. Sometimes it takes time to retrieve this evidence, so the earlier you make a start on this section the better. Always make copies of anything you send to the court.
- Section 3 – Financial requirements: To help the court understand your current and future income and capital need for you and your children if they will be living with you. You should be clear about how you have come to the figures you provide and if you can provide supporting evidence this is very useful.
- Section 4 – Other Information: To gather information about your financial circumstances during the marriage, such as the lifestyle you have experienced, any non-financial contribution you have made, such as home making and child rearing, as well as any financial contribution you may have made during the marriage, such as an inheritance or insurance payout. You can also give information about "bad behaviour" that has had a direct impact on your financial position.
- Section 5 – Order Sought: The court has powers to make a wide range of orders to divide your matrimonial property and you should use this section to tell the court what you are seeking. Your divorce solicitor will be able to explain the options available to you and the likelihood of success.
- Statement of Truth: A formal declaration that the information you have provided in your Form E is a full, frank and accurate representation of your financial circumstances. If the information is later found to be inaccurate or incomplete, there can be serious consequences.
The court will set a date on which you and your partner must exchange Forms E. At this point you can check what your spouse has declared. If you think your spouse's form is inaccurate, you can complete a 'questionnaire' to address anything you consider is missing or wrong in the document. You should file a copy of this with the court and serve the questionnaire on your spouse.
At this point you can apply to the court for maintenance pending suit (MPS). The court can order your spouse to pay maintenance until the case has concluded, however, if your application fails the court can order you to pay costs. Speak to your divorce solicitor about making an MPS application.
Goodsells Family Law – By your side in a financial settlement case
By this point you are well on your way to the first appointment with a judge. There's a lot to think about and it's important that you adhere to court deadlines and complete all forms accurately.
At Goodsells Family Law, we can help you through this process by providing sensitive, understanding guidance, but always being open and pragmatic about your case.
To arrange an initial appointment, speak to us today by calling 020 7622 2221 or complete our online enquiry form.