Divorce finances: what happens at the final hearing

Divorce finances what happens at the final hearing

This is the most challenging time – make sure you get advice from an expert family lawyer on the subject of divorce finances: what happens at the final hearing.

The FDR crumbled

You didn’t reach agreement at the FDR, but not all is lost. The Judge’s indication of the likely outcome of your case can be a wake up call. There’s plenty of opportunity in the weeks before the final hearing to negotiate and reach a settlement.

The earlier you settle, the better. Heading towards a final hearing is when the serious stuff kicks in – vital and detailed preparation – and if at this stage you decide to get legal help, it won’t come cheap: it’s the most expensive time in any Court case.

You need to follow the Court order setting out the timetable for the lead up to the final hearing. You’ll either have agreed it with your ex, or the Court will have imposed it.

What’s the plan

Follow the timetable. It’s not optional, and there are dates to keep to. It can include orders to provide:

  • updated financial disclosure
  • valuations of land and property
  • pensions report
  • tax report
  • Court bundle
  • costs estimate
  • open offers of settlement

What’s a Court bundle

It contains all relevant documents plus the “preliminary documents” (see below). It’s paginated and indexed, and is extremely useful in a final hearing. But who prepares it?

  • the applicant (as opposed to the respondent). If you’re not sure who’s who, look at your latest Court order. And it’s not necessarily the same as who started the divorce. But if the applicant is a litigant in person, the bundle is prepared by:
  • the respondent. But if the respondent is a litigant in person there’s no bundle, unless the Court directs otherwise.

What’s in the Court bundle

Not every single document, letter, email – just what’s set out in Practice Direction 27a

What are the preliminary documents

see Practice Direction 27a, but in brief:

  • case summary
  • statement of issues
  • position statement by each of you (what you want and why you think it’s fair – in line with your open offer)
  • chronology

If you haven’t done a s25 statement, your position statement will have to include it.

What’s a s25 statement

Provides all the details required by s25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

  • income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources 
  • financial needs
  • standard of living before the marriage breakdown 
  • age
  • duration of the marriage
  • physical or mental disability 
  • contributions to the welfare of the family
  • conduct of your ex

Conduct 

S.25 mentions conduct “inequitable to disregard” – and it goes well beyond committing adultery. My next blog will cover this subject.

Conference with Counsel

Or, in plain English, a meeting with your barrister.

Now’s a good time to take expert legal advice and employ a barrister to represent you. It’s an expensive step, but you need to make sure your position and your needs are fairly and expertly represented.

The doors of the Court

Quite often an agreement is reached just before you’re due to walk into the final hearing.

What happens at the final hearing

In brief:

  • it won’t be the same Judge as at the FDR, and they won’t know what happened at the FDR
  • you and your ex will give evidence under oath and be cross examined
  • experts will be questioned about, for example, the value of the business or of the home
  • the Judge will make an order

What is cross examination

It’s when you or your barrister ask your ex questions. These focus on the areas in dispute, for example:

  • fitness to work
  • earning potential
  • new partner
  • household expenditure.

Don’t forget – you’ll be cross examined, too.

Orders the Judge can make

See the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 . Examples:

  • property adjustment
  • maintenance
  • pension sharing
  • orders for sale
  • duration of financial orders

Questions about financial disclosure

This is the sixth blog in a series, and includes blogs on how to complete Form E; prepare a statement of issues, chronology and questionnaire. You are also led through the First Appointment and the FDR.

Divorce finances: what happens at the final hearing

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial consultation on Divorce finances: what happens at the final hearing. In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family lawyers. We offer Pay as you go costs. We offer Collaborative law solutions tailored to your family’s needs.

The topics covered in this blog post Divorce finances: what happens at the final hearing are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

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How do you Split Assets in a Divorce in the UK?

How do you Split Assets in a Divorce in the UK

How do you Split Assets in a Divorce in the UK?

Family home, pensions, inheritances, business assets, there’s a lot to think about. And is it matrimonial or non matrimonial property?

The starting place is a fifty/fifty split but there are considerations under s.25 Matrimonial Causes Act –

  • the welfare of any children
  • income, earning capacity, property
  • financial needs
  • standard of living
  • ages and length of marriage
  • disabilities
  • contributions
  • conduct if inequitable to disregard it

How do we reach an agreement about assets?

If you can reach an agreement, well done, but run it past an experienced family lawyer to make sure it’s fair. If you can’t agree try –

Whichever method you will need to give full and frank disclosure of your finances. See my blog Financial Disclosure on Divorce, 10 things you need to know. And you need a Court order to protect you. See my blog How do I get a Consent Order? A Simple Guide

What about my home?

The options are –

  • one of you buys the other out, or
  • you sell and divide the proceeds, or
  • one of you keeps the house and the other has an interest in it which they realise in the future. This is called a charge.

What is a charge on the home?

This works well if there are children. You can’t afford to buy each other out and a sale won’t realise enough to house you both. Perhaps there’s only a tiny equity. But how is this fair for the parent who won’t live there and won’t be receiving any cash? The answer is an interest in the property, a charge representing a certain percentage of its value. This means in the future you will get capital from the property.

When do I get the money from the charge?

There are various ways it can be worded. For example, when the children turn eighteen years of age or when the parent living there remarries or cohabits for a certain period.

What about pensions?

Pensions can be significant especially if one of you works in the public sector. In the heat of the moment one of you might say, Keep the pension, I want the house! But this isn’t always wise. It might be better to sell the house, split the proceeds and downsize so you can have a pension sharing order to provide you with income in retirement. See my blog Pensions on Divorce, what can you expect.

How will the assets be split in my case?

It really is impossible to generalise but I can give you a couple of examples.

Sue and John – older couple, no mortgage, no kids

So you’re both in good health and you have a range of assets – nice house, couple of cars, pensions, savings. You are likely to come away with half each, a fifty/fifty split. How this is achieved is up to you. One of you buys the other’s interest in the house. Or you sell it and split the proceeds. You could say, I’ll have the yacht, you have the timeshare. Tot it up so you make sure you’re getting equal value. Don’t forget to get a Consent Order – see my blog How do I get a Consent Order? A Simple Guide

Emma and Mike – two kids, big mortgage, little equity

This is more tricky. The top priority is a home for the children and the only option is the family house. A transfer of the house to Emma with a charge to Mike might be the answer.

Olivia and David – short marriage, no kids

The rules are different for short marriages, see my blog Short marriages, 10 things you need to know.

What about my inheritance?

It depends on –

  • when you received it
  • whether you mixed it with the matrimonial assets or kept it separate
  • whether there are enough non-inheritance assets to provide a fair settlement

See my blog How to protect inheritance on divorce.

I have a business, what will happen to that?

See my blog How to protect business on divorce

But I contributed everything to this marriage!

Sometimes you can keep non matrimonial assets out of the pot for division. These include –

  • Assets built up before the marriage
  • Inheritances
  • Businesses

But non matrimonial assets will go into the pot if this is the only way for example to answer the children’s need for housing. See my blog Ring fence and protect assets on divorce.

What is a clean break, can I still get maintenance?

See my blog Maintenance and clean break on divorce.

How do you Split Assets in a Divorce in the UK?

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial free of charge consultation on the question How do you Split Assets in a Divorce in the UK. In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family lawyers. We offer Pay as you go costs. We offer Collaborative law solutions tailored to your family’s needs.

The topics covered in this blog post How do you Split Assets in a Divorce in the UK? are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

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How do I get a Consent Order? A simple guide

How do I get a Consent Order?
Rosalind Russell in the 1949 movie ‘Tell it to the Judge’ – and that, in essence, is what a Consent Order is all about

  What’s a Consent Order?

You’ve agreed the matrimonial finances. The next step is to get a Consent Order so you know it’s done and dusted. Once it’s made, neither of you can:

  • go back on the agreement
  • come back for a second bite of the cherry.

  How do I get a Consent Order?

Contact an experienced family lawyer because your Consent Order needs to be technically accurate.

  When’s the best time to get a Consent Order?

As soon as you are in agreement. But did you know that a Consent Order cannot be made by the Court until your decree nisi has been pronounced?

  What do I send to the Court?

  What’s a ‘statement of information for Consent Order’?

This sets out your finances. It’s vital to complete it accurately. See my blog Financial Disclosure on Divorce – 10 Things You Need To Know for the dire consequences of being less than frank in financial disclosure.

  What will the Court do?

The Court’s duty is to make sure the Consent Order is fair, makes proper financial provision, and is technically correct. The Court will firstly consider the welfare of any children. It will then consider your –

  • income, earning capacity, property
  • financial needs
  • standard of living during marriage
  • ages and length of marriage 
  • disabilities
  • contributions made 
  • conduct if it would be inequitable to disregard it

If the Court isn’t convinced it’s fair, or if the order is technically incorrect, they will raise queries. These can mostly be dealt with by letter. Occasionally there can be a short Court hearing.

If you want to make sure you come to a fair agreement, read my blog Financial Settlement on Divorce, How To Get The Best One For You – 5 FAQs.

  How can a Consent Order be wrong?

If it’s unfair. For example if one of you ends up with valuable assets but the other doesn’t. But this can sometimes be fair if there are unusual circumstances such as a short marriage. See my blog Short Marriages – 10 Things You Need To Know

  How else can a Consent Order be wrong?

If there are technical errors. The Court can only make certain orders. These include:

  How to get a Consent Order right

The simplest answer is to ask an experienced family lawyer to draft it for you.

  What’s a recital/preamble?

The paragraphs above the words “By Consent it is Ordered“. What’s included?

  • Agreements that can’t be orders
  • Undertakings to the Court (an undertaking is a solemn promise to the Court)

For example to return the oil painting of your mother in law. Or to take turns looking after Rover, the beloved family pet. Or to pay the mortgage on the family home. This is relevant if the house will be yours but the mortgage is still in joint names because of financial constraints.

  But what happens if my ex ignores what’s in the recital/preamble?

You can make an application to the Court for enforcement.

  When does a Consent Order come into effect?

When it’s sealed by the Court, or when your decree absolute is obtained, whichever is later.

  How do I get a Consent Order?

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial free of charge consultation on the question How do I get a Consent Order? In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family lawyers. We offer Pay as you go costs. We offer Collaborative law solutions tailored to your family’s needs.

The topics covered in this blog post How do I get a Consent Order? are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

image credit for How do I get a Consent Order? Columbia’s ‘Tell it to the Judge’

 

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Financial disclosure on divorce – 10 things you need to know

financial disclosure on divorce

Not sure about financial disclosure on divorce? Read this straightforward guide. This blog also tells you what happens after disclosure – something you really need to know! But please make sure you take advice from an experienced family lawyer if you are at all unsure about your position.


1.    What are my options

The answer is there are few because the rule is full and frank disclosure backed up by documentary evidence. Hiding assets or income will only serve to drag out negotiations. Furthermore it can result in an expensive and never ending Court case. And can end in imprisonment.

2.    But is it actually a matrimonial asset

This is a vital question but it’s addressed after disclosure.  So yes, you have to disclose all of the following:

  • house you owned pre-marriage
  • pension you paid into since you started work
  • inheritance that post dated your separation

But disclosing an asset doesn’t mean you lose it. Why? Because there may be good reasons why some or all of it should be ring fenced. See my blog Ring fence and protect assets on divorce.

3.    Is disclosure inevitable

Whether it’s voluntary or part of the Court process, at some stage it’s likely you will be called upon to disclose your assets and income. This is in a:

4.    Can I hide my assets in a new account or business

That won’t work either. These are all disclosable, even assets in a trust. By all means argue that the trust should not be taken into consideration after you have disclosed it.

5.    What happens if I don’t disclose my assets

You will be surprised how inquisitive divorce lawyers can be – not to mention forensic accountants. As a result of their investigations your ex could make an application to the Court for you to disclose the asset and all relevant documentation relating to it.

6.    But how bad can it really get 

Worst case scenario, you end up in prison for contempt of court. More likely is a costs order and “adverse inferences” being drawn as to the extent of your assets. If this happens the Court can decide you’ve got more assets than you’re letting on. This can mean an order for a larger share to your ex – not a good outcome.

7.    Will I get away with it

Have you hidden away an asset, or a lucrative plan for your business, and no one has noticed – yet? You will always be looking over your shoulder as your failure to disclose is likely to be discovered.

8.   What if the order has been made

Cases of non disclosure or fraudulent disclosure are treated severely. The Court can overturn the order finalising the matrimonial finances – you will find yourself back at square one again: older, wiser, but sadly a great deal lighter in your pocket.

9. Is financial disclosure on divorce a good idea

Yes, it leads to:

  • quicker and easier outcomes
  • lower legal costs
  • less emotional fallout for you and the children

10. What happens after financial disclosure on divorce

See my blogs What happens after financial disclosure on divorce part 1, part 2 and part 3 for a guide to:

  • filling in Form E
  • Court timetable
  • concise statement of issues
  • chronology
  • questionnaire
  • First Appointment
  • FDR

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial consultation on Financial Disclosure on Divorce. In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family lawyers. We offer Pay as you go costs. We offer Collaborative law solutions tailored to your family’s needs.

The topics covered in this blog post Financial Disclosure on Divorce are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

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