Clients going through separation, divorce or judicial separation proceedings will inevitably need to deal with their finances (either by simply dismissing claims or dividing more complicated asset structures).
The process invariably involves the exchange of financial information (either formally or informally) and once the disclosure stage is complete, negotiations follow.
If agreement cannot be reached easily (through offers or settlement meetings), parties may need to adopt alternative dispute resolution methods to try and resolve the case, for example, mediation, financial dispute resolution or arbitration.
In the rare event that out of court methods prove futile, the case will need to be determined by the Court. Confidante can guide clients through the process no matter which route applies to them.
Sharing financial information can often be a stressful part of the process. Knowing what information you need to share and the benefit of doing so is explained in Checklist 2 – click on the link below.
Most lawyers charge an hourly rate and therefore the more time you require from your lawyer, the higher your bills will be.
It follows that; the more couples can agree between themselves, the cheaper the divorce will be.
In a straightforward case, if a lawyer is engaged to;
i) assist with the divorce papers and divorce procedure (assuming that the divorce petition is undefended (a contested divorce would be more expensive)); and
ii) draft a Consent Order reflecting an agreement reached between the parties;
the cost could be from £2,000 (excluding the Court processing fees).
At Confidante, by embedding technology in the structure of our offering, we have created a more efficient family law service which has inbuilt cost saving benefits for our clients. Further to that, the more our clients use the tools available to them, the more likely this will be reflected in their fees overall (as less fee earning time will be required).
Where appropriate, we also offer fixed fees on discrete pieces of work or specific stages in the process.
Financial disclosure involves the exchange of financial information between the parties. This can either be;
i) informal disclosure which may include the exchange of a summary of each parties’ financial circumstances with documentary evidence in support (such as latest bank statements etc.) or
ii) formal disclosure which includes the exchange of detailed information with full documentary evidence in support. The information is provided in an Affidavit of Means (a sworn document – in other words, if a party is deliberately untruthful, criminal proceedings for perjury may be commenced).
Check out Checklist 2 “What you will need to provide in divorce proceedings” for information as to what you are required to attach to your Affidavit of Means.
It is possible for both parties to opt out of exchanging financial information with one another (common when both parties feel they have a good grip of the family finances including assets held in their spouse’s name).
However, if one party wishes to exchange financial information, avoiding financial disclosure is not possible. If this process is not entered into voluntarily, the Court will make orders.
Further, if the parties opt out of exchanging financial information but are unable to reach an agreement, the Court will require full financial information in the format of an Affidavit of Means to determine the case.
If a party fails to make disclosure voluntarily, an application can be made to the Court and the Court will order disclosure. If that party defies the Court Order, they will be in breach of a Court order (contempt) and adverse orders can be made such as Costs Orders.
If a party’s disclosure remains incomplete at the date of the final hearing, the Court can draw adverse inferences.
There are a number of factors taken into account when determining a fair outcome including the;
i) welfare of any minor children;
ii) age of the parties;
iii) length of the marriage;
iv) financial needs, obligations and responsibilities of each party;
v) income, earning capacity, property and other resources each party has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
vi) standard of living during the marriage;
vii) contributions that each party has made, or is likely to make in the foreseeable future to the welfare of the family;
viii) conduct of the parties (if inequitable to disregard); and
ix) the loss of (for example) pension benefits as a result of the dissolution of the marriage.
The court follows the legal principles from legislation and case law in making its decision, although each judge has wide discretion to do what they perceive to be appropriate on facts of each case. This means the precise outcome of financial court proceedings can be quite difficult to predict.
When dividing assets, the court will measure the end result against a benchmark 50/50 split to assess whether anything other than that is justified. It would be usual to expect that there would not be a 50/50 asset split where one person’s (or the children’s) needs require a higher proportion of the capital assets, e.g. for housing, or sometimes where one person came into the marriage with significantly greater assets than the other.
It is important to seek legal advice as to the fair outcome as the specifics of your case will dictate the outcome.