Reaching a Divorce Financial Settlement

Our expertise in dealing with matters of family law, such as handling adoption orders, wills, probate and domestic violence, means that we’re perfectly placed to offer help and advice when things go wrong. That’s particularly the case when a marriage breaks down and the question of a divorce financial settlement has to be dealt with.

In an ideal world the end of a relationship and the divorce process involved can be dealt with fairly quickly and smoothly, particularly if both parties agree to end the relationship, and are parting on amicable terms.  All too often, however, two aspects of divorce can get in the way of this outcome. The first of these is the emotional fall-out, and the fact that the end of a marriage can often lead to anger, bitterness and hurt, feelings which cloud the judgement and drive parties to attempt to ‘punish’ each other. The second complicating factor is the nature of the divorce financial settlement, and reaching an agreement which both sides feel is fair. Our job at Higgins Miller is to offer a degree of sympathy for the emotions involved, coupled with clear-eyed advice on the legal issues. Our aim is always to deal with an issue such as a divorce financial settlement as quickly and simply as possible, keeping down the costs involved at the same time as expediting the process and bringing forward the moment at which our client can begin to concentrate on planning for the rest of their life.

The details of each divorce financial settlement are unique, having been shaped by the specific circumstances of both partners. Complicating factors might include the ownership of property, shares and pensions as well as existing arrangements from previous marriages. No matter how complex individual settlements are, however, the process can be broken down into individual stages, and our expert team will be on hand to explain each stage in terms of your rights and responsibilities, and to guide you through as sympathetically as possible.

Stage one involves identifying and listing all of the assets of the marriage, whether they are jointly owned or in the name of an individual. These assets then have to be accurately valued, with evidence to back up the valuation where possible. This process is known as ‘financial disclosure’ and allows an accurate picture of the financial state of the marriage to be established. Delays at this stage are likely to be caused by disagreements on the value of certain assets, and should be relatively simple to resolve, with input from an independent valuer if need be.  The next stage is the most complicated part of any divorce financial settlement and involves deciding exactly how these assets should be divided.

It is this part of the divorce process which is most likely to involve disagreement and, in some cases, an application to the court to settle the issue. We always work to avoid this wherever possible, for several reasons. The first of these is that any court action is almost certain to make the process of divorce lengthier, more stressful and much more costly. The second major reason for advising against asking a court to decide the final nature of the divorce financial settlement is that this process is extremely unpredictable. It’s often supposed that courts automatically favour the wife of a divorcing couple, but this isn’t necessarily the case. When reaching a decision, the court will weigh up various aspects such as the income and future earning capacity of each party, the standard of living which was enjoyed before the marriage broke down, contributions which either party have made in kind to the welfare of the family, such as looking after the home, and more basic factors, such as the age of each party, the length of the marriage, and the presence of any dependent children within the family unit. If the parties can’t agree on a settlement without having to go as far as a final hearing, then the process can, at the most optimistic estimate, take between 6 and 9 months.  This timescale is likely to be much longer, however, since disagreements over the value of assets or the contribution of each partner are likely to require evidence and submissions being presented to the court, and often input from independent experts.

In many cases, an agreed divorce financial settlement is often the biggest roadblock to making the kind of quick, clean break which most couples would prefer. That’s why we’d always recommend reaching an agreement via some other means, such as direct discussion between the parties, mediation, or even a meeting with the parties and their legal representatives. Informal contact of this kind is always likely to produce quicker results, whilst the involvement of experts from Higgins Miller will ensure that you’ll be treated in a manner which is fair and legally correct, with any settlement accurately reflecting your rights and responsibilities.

If you’d like to ask us anything about a divorce financial settlement, or any other aspect of the divorce process, then please get in touch at the earliest opportunity. You can do this by calling 0161 429 7251 or emailing us at [email protected]. We provide an initial 20-minute appraisal free of charge and, if you need to work further with us, we offer a wide range of funding options which are set out in more detail here.

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