How finances are split during the divorce process is very much dependent on the circumstances of the separating couple. Pensions, property, savings and investments all need to be considered, along with any financial help for living expenses. If there are children, childcare and maintenance issues need to be considered. If you and your ex agree on how your finances should be split, you can apply for a consent order to make the agreement legally binding. However, it is not unusual for couples to require assistance to reach an agreement in the form of mediation through solicitors or via a financial order made by a court. If you require a financial order, the court will decide how your assets will be split – arrangements for maintenance payments will also be discussed. To help you navigate the complexities of how finances are split in a divorce, here are some commonly asked questions:
When should I apply for a financial order?
It is only possible to ask the court to make a financial order after you have your conditional order or decree nisi, but it is best to apply for this before you apply for your final order or decree absolute. Financial arrangements can be dealt with after your divorce, but this might affect what you are entitled to.
Do the reasons for divorce affect the financial settlement after divorce?
No. Divorces are now all ‘no-fault’ divorces, so there are no allegations of adultery/unreasonable behaviour anymore. If your divorce was started prior to April 2022, it will be fault-based and usually the reasons for divorce are not taken into account by the court in the settlement. However, they can be if they are directly related to the financial issues between you both.
What does the court take into consideration when deciding how finances should be split?
The judge’s job is to find the fairest way to divide the marital assets and ensure everyone has sufficient to meet their needs, whilst prioritising the needs of children. In reaching a decision, the needs of any minor child of the family have to be taken into account first and foremost, then the parties’ resources and their needs, before the judge will consider:
- The ages of the parties involved – this has a bearing on your ability to earn, pay a mortgage, or retire.
- Duration of the marriage.
- Your ability to earn money.
- Any property and savings.
- Living expenses.
- Standard of living/overall lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage – usually only a factor where assets are substantial.
- Financial needs and responsibilities, such as housing and present and future income.
- Roles in looking after the family, as this could affect a main carer’s ability to earn a wage.
- Disabilities or health conditions which could affect income, expenditure needs or accommodation requirements.
How does having a new partner affect the split of finances?
If you are living with a new partner or have remarried, your new partner’s situation may be considered by the court in terms of assessing their contribution to the household budget, for example, food, bills, mortgage or rent.
What is a ‘clean break’?
A clean break is a financial settlement structured in such a way that all financial ties with one another are cut. Generally, this is preferable to ongoing financial dependency.
How much child maintenance should I pay?
Many couples arrange child maintenance privately, agreeing on who will pay for additional items such as school uniforms, school trips or leisure activities. However, if this can’t be agreed, the Child Maintenance Service can be asked to work it out for you. The government website has a child maintenance calculator to give you an idea of how much you should expect to pay. Child maintenance is payable up to the age of 16 or until the age of 20 if your child is in full-time education studying for A-levels or equivalent.
Is my ex entitled to my pension?
Your workplace and private pensions are financial assets that will be considered within the financial settlement. Your pension may be split by way of a pension-sharing order. A claim can be made against your pension at any time after the divorce if you do not have a financial settlement order. The court will take both parties’ pensions into consideration. Pension offsetting is an option. This avoids the need to split a pension by agreeing that your partner receives other capital assets to offset the lost claims on pensions – this is not done on a pound-for-pound basis and is discounted, taking factors such as age and length of marriage into account.
Do you need a solicitor to make a financial settlement after divorce?
Dealing with the split of finances in a divorce can be difficult and complex. We would strongly advise getting advice from an experienced family solicitor to ensure your settlement is fair, clear and legally binding. A review of the laws governing finances on divorce is currently underway. The Law Commission has indicated that it will look at how maintenance payments should work, orders relating to pensions and factors that judges must consider when deciding whether to make a financial remedy order. The aim is to minimise conflict by making the law as fair and simple as possible. The financial review builds on the implementation of the no-fault divorce reforms, which ended the need to apportion blame when applying for a divorce. A move which protects families and children from unnecessary stress. The review will be a slow process, taking several years. It will begin with preliminary work to create a scoping paper, followed by a consultation on proposed reforms. For advice on any family law matter, please don’t hesitate to contact our Stoke-on-Trent solicitors on 01782 205000, our Altrincham solicitors on 0161 929 8494 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.