Before commencing financial proceedings you should consider whether matters can be settled by agreement without the need to embark on potentially lengthy and costly litigation. Agreement can be reached through solicitor negotiations or mediation and it would generally be preferable to resolve matters this way as both parties will have been involved in reaching an agreement, as opposed to Court imposing an Order, which neither party may be completely happy with.
In the event that you are able to reach an agreement with your ex-spouse, it will need to be recorded in a Consent Order and filed at Court to be sealed, together with a form setting out your financial position. The Court retains the jurisdiction to raise questions in the event that the Consent Order is considered unfair, it is not merely a “rubber stamp” exercise.
The Court has a very wide discretion and the outcome of each matter will depend on the facts specific to the matter. The Court will always seek to be “fair”. The law is set out in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, which provides a list of factors to be considered (“the Section 25 factors”), and further guidance can be taken from previous cases.
As a general principle, though it will depend on the length of the marriage, the starting point will be an equal division of the matrimonial assets. Any departure from equality must be justified on the basis of needs, sharing or compensation (though compensation is only applicable in a small number of cases), applying the Section 25 factors.
Where possible, the Court will seek to achieve a clean break or delayed clean break. This means that, following the implementation of the Financial Order (or a fixed period of maintenance in the case of a delayed clean break) the parties are no longer financially linked. This is not always possible in cases involving dependent children unless there are significant assets.
If you manage to reach agreement, a Consent Order can be drawn up and sent to the Court for approval which would take about 6 – 8 weeks. If you cannot reach agreement and you need the Court to decide, it is likely to take at least 12 months to get to a Final Hearing. In some case it may take even longer depending on how complex the matter is, although such cases are not so frequent.
At Terry Jones Solicitors we have helped divorcing couples settle matters outside of court for a number of years. Divorce is often a trying time and we work closely with couples every step of the way to ensure their needs are met and mitigate the pain this period can cause.
Should you wish to learn more about the options that are available to you in your specific circumstances, please feel free to contact one of our experienced family lawyers for a no-obligation discussion which will be treated in the strictest confidence.
Solicitor – Head of Family Law
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