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Financial arrangements after divorce (continued)
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The court has a wide discretion in applying the law. It is often better, therefore, to avoid the uncertainty of a court hearing. Most clients are able to agree how their finances should be split with each having the help of a solicitor to advise on what might be a fair division, highlight the options for achieving this and negotiate on their behalf.
In terms of the negotiation process, it is usual to require full and frank disclosure of each person's assets, income, liabilities and pension details. This is usually done by exchanging forms called 'Form E'. This is to ensure that everything is included in the family 'pot' to be shared. Financial arrangements can be settled through a 'clean break', which ends the financial obligations between the couple if this is appropriate. Some form of maintenance payments may, however, be more suitable. These can be ongoing or for a fixed period of time. Even where there is a 'clean break' agreed maintenance will still be payable for any dependent children.
Often a family's main asset is the family home. Given that the needs of any children are the first consideration, it will be important to make sure that a suitable home is maintained for them. It may be that the family home can be sold with the proceeds divided between the couple (not necessarily in equal shares). The property could also be transferred to one spouse with the other receiving a greater share of other assets. A less common approach could allow one person to stay in the house with the other keeping an interest in the property, receiving their share when it is sold. This might be when the youngest child has finished full-time education.
The law now allows a pension fund to be shared on divorce. Pension sharing will not be appropriate in all cases and, where it is an option, the fund will not always be divided equally. This is a complex area and it is highly likely that specialist financial advice will be needed on how sharing can be achieved in each individual set of circumstances.
When you are considering divorce or separation it is generally better if you can make arrangements for the future by agreement. It may be, therefore, that mediation is an appropriate way forward for you. The aim of mediation is to help you, as a couple, find a sensible and practical solution that you both agree is “fair”.
Carla Hull is also one of a handful of local lawyers who is fully qualified as a collaborative lawyer. Collaborative family law is a new, non-confrontational approach to resolving issues arising out of family or relationship breakdown. The collaborative process is based on open, honest and dignified discussions during which each client is supported by his/her own trained collaborative lawyer. The clients and their lawyers work together in a series of meetings without the threat of court proceedings, to find a fair and mutually acceptable solution. The Resolution website, www.collabfamilylaw.co.uk further explains this process.
We have strong links with various Accountants and Independent Financial Advisors, including pension specialists, who we can call upon to provide further advice and assistance throughout the process.