Divorce Settlements: What are you entitled to?
For most people, the most worrying aspect of getting divorced is how to divide any marital assets. Most often, this is around whether they will be able to keep their home.
If you are thinking about divorce, or have already started divorce proceedings, you should make a list of any assets. This list should include any assets held in your sole name or together with your spouse. You should also state the value of the assets.
Marital assets, or matrimonial assets, are those acquired or built up during the marriage. For example; a family home and its contents, pensions, savings, shares and vehicles.
You should also add up the value of any liabilities too. For example; mortgages, loans, credit cards and overdrafts. Consideration of these will also be part of the final settlement.
The total of the assets minus any liabilities will form the ‘matrimonial pot’.
Non-marital assets are those acquired before or after the marriage.
The distribution of these non-marital assets can be different. But, for most middle and low asset families, non-marital assets will need to be included. This is to meet the needs of the parties involved.
Once the divorce has reached the Decree Nisi stage, the Courts will consider how to divide the pot.
The starting point for the division of marital assets is equality.
That does not always mean a straight 50/50 split. Instead, it depends on the circumstances of the spouses.
If one party is in a weaker financial position. Or they are the main carer for any children of the family. Then they need a larger share of the assets to achieve equality.
This may be in the form of child maintenance payments for spousal maintenance.
The Court will consider all circumstances of the case before reaching a decision they consider to be fair and reasonable.
Where couples can reach an agreement between themselves, or with the assistance of a family mediator, a consent order can be drafted which will clearly state how the assets are to be divided.
Once signed by both parties the consent order will be lodged with the Court for a Judge to determine if the agreement is reasonable. If approved, the consent order will be legally binding and enforceable. In this instance, there will be no need to attend court hearings.
What happens when parties cannot reach an agreement between themselves?
In these cases, either spouse can apply to the courts for a financial application to ask them to make a decision.
The Court have a wide range of powers when deciding financial settlements.
They can make financial orders to include lump-sum payments or periodical payments. They can also make property adjustment orders. This is where property changes from being in joint names to a sole party. Additionally, they can order the sale of any property and make pension sharing orders.
When reaching their decision, the Courts will consider many factors. These include; the financial needs of each party, their respective income, any issues of ill health or disability. They will also look at each party’s contribution to the marriage. And the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage.
The Courts need to completely understand the assets available for a division to make a fair and balanced decision. Their aim is to not leave one party at a significant disadvantage. Therefore, they do not usually consider the grounds for divorce. As such, both parties are required to provide full and frank disclosure of their finances.
Where a party attempts to mislead the Court or hide assets they may face penalties.
How Ringrose Law can help
A complication in financial matters from a divorce is common. It is likely to impact you for many years. If you need any help regarding divorce and finances our team will be happy to support you with legal advice.
Emma Darley from our family law team in Lincoln can assist – call 01522 561020 for a free initial appointment.