When a married couple decides to divorce they have to agree what will happen to their shared assets and future finances. When you go to court for a divorce there are no rules that are written in stone. If a couple cannot agree the disposal of their finances and assets between themselves then the judge can make an order. It used to be the case that financial awards were made in favour of the mother as the primary carer of children, nowadays that is no longer the case. A judge can just as easily make an order in favour of the man as he might the woman. Where there is a property involved a judge might rule that the mother or father, whoever has residency of the children, should live in the property until the children reach the age of 18.
When a judge does have to rule on a financial settlement during and after a divorce, he or she will have to consider the following:
- If there are children under the age of 18 then the judge will consider their welfare as paramount in any settlement.
- The judge will also have to decide the value of any property as well as joint and individual assets along with the financial needs and responsibilities of each person before a judgment is made – this will include any liabilities or debts that each partner has.
- Present and future pension arrangements for each partner and the value of any benefit one or other of them might lose because of the divorce
- The earning potential and present earnings of both parties
- Present standard of living
- The length of the marriage and the ages of the two parties
- What contributions each partner made to the marriage in terms of domestic, childcare and financial duties
- Whether either party has an illness or disability that needs to be taken into consideration when making a settlement
It is often the financial settlements and agreements that cause the most problems for a divorcing couple. Nobody wants to have to give up their home or contribute a considerable amount of future earnings for the welfare of the other. Some couples are able to make arrangements regarding their assets and finances without going before the judge, in these cases the solicitor will put the financial agreement before the court for its agreement. Once the consent order has been put before the court the judge can order the couple to appear before the court to determine whether both parties were fully aware of what they were agreeing to.
Once a financial settlement has been agreed and signed by the judge it becomes a legally binding document and it is rare that any changes are made to such an agreement. If a couple cannot agree on a financial settlement then they will need to get further legal advice. It is in your own best interests to reach an agreement as further court proceedings can be very expensive. It can cost a further ten thousand pounds if you need to go to court again, this is known as an ancillary case. You will need a lawyer to handle an ancillary case and you may need to attend court on two or even three occasions.