Financial Matters & Divorce

At Burgess Mee Family Law, we understand how confusing it can be to try to sort out financial matters with your former partner on divorce or separation. Discussions can easily become contentious as you both work to unravel your finances after years of life together.

Our goal is to provide clear and practical advice to help you achieve a positive resolution with minimal stress.

Divorce or separation can be a long and wearing process, and it comes as a surprise to many that the financial aspects of divorce are dealt with separately to the divorce process itself.

Our specialist family and divorce solicitors will talk to you up front about the right approach for your case, discuss whether we need to involve the court at an early stage to protect your position, and what the financial and living arrangements will be in the interim.

The first stage of the process is exchanging disclosure of assets and income between both spouses. Once each party understands the financial picture, the process of determining a fair outcome may involve negotiation with solicitors, with a third party such as a mediator or via a court or private dispute resolution process. There are no hard and fast rules about what is 'fair'; it depends on family circumstances, the history of the relationship and the needs of any children involved.

For further advice and information about sorting out financial matters on divorce, give our divorce solicitors a call on +44 (0)203 824 9950, fill in the simple enquiry form at the top of the page, or answer a few questions for some instant advice.

Our divorce solicitors’ financial matters expertise

Our divorce solicitors can provide you with specialist advice and guidance across all areas of family law and divorce law. In particular, we can use our expertise in financial remedy matters to assist you from the moment you choose to divorce to the moment your divorce is finalised, including:

  • Advice on how to manage finances upon initially separating
  • Advising you in relation to the law on financial settlements and your options for coming to an agreement
  • Organising and guiding you through methods of Dispute Resolution, including family mediation and collaborative law, to help you come to an agreement out of court where possible
  • Providing tailored advice in relation to division of assets, spousal maintenance and child maintenance which is bespoke according to your individual circumstances
  • Drafting and formalising your financial settlement in the form of a Consent Order
  • Starting financial proceedings in court if you are unable to come to an agreement with your former partner, including providing you with robust representation with the aim of achieving a positive outcome for you and any children
  • Enforcing your Consent Order or Financial Order in court if your partner fails to comply

What is a financial agreement?

A financial agreement is an agreement which sets out you and your former partner’s financial arrangements on divorce including what happens to your savings, property and pensions. The agreement can also set out arrangements for spousal and child maintenance and how any debts will be paid moving forwards.

The best option is to reach your financial agreement with your spouse alongside the divorce proceedings so by the time your divorce is finalised, all outstanding financial matters and concerns have been dealt with.

In most situations, couples are able to reach a financial agreement out of court using negotiations and Dispute Resolution methods. However, if couples are unable to agree for whatever reason, it may be necessary to apply to court for a decision on a Financial Order.

Whatever your personal situation, our divorce lawyers will tailor our approach accordingly with the goal of achieving an outcome which is likely to achieve the most positive outcome for you.

Is a ‘clean break’ financial settlement right for you?

A ‘clean break’ financial agreement is an arrangement between a divorcing couple which completely severs their financial commitments. This means once the divorce is finalised, the couple’s finances will be absolutely separate, with no ongoing payments of spousal maintenance, allowing both parties to move forward as financially independent individuals. Child maintenance would be dealt with separately.

A ‘clean break’ agreement isn’t for everybody, but it might be suitable for you if:

  • You don’t have any children or they are adults and don’t depend on you financially.
  • You are both financially able to support yourselves and maintain a reasonable standard of living (for both you and your children) without the assistance of your former spouse from your own capital resources and earning capacity
  • You have very simple finances, for example, you have separate bank accounts and savings and you earn the same.

What might make your finances difficult to separate?

For many divorcing couples, who may have built a life together over many years or decades, separating finances is not an easy task. That’s why it’s crucial that you obtain the services of an experienced divorce solicitor to help you negotiate an agreement with your former spouse. Separating your finances might become complicated if:

  • Either of you owns a business.
  • You have children who depend on you financially.
  • One of you depends financially on the other, perhaps because one of you left full-time work to raise your children.
  • One of you has a disability or health issue which affects your current and future earning potential.
  • One of you owns significantly more assets than the other.
  • There are very significant assets and pre-acquired assets and/or inheritances.

Where do you start?

Thinking about financial matters at this time can be overwhelming. However, your first concern should always be to try to come to a financial arrangement with your former partner on the following issues: 

  • How will the bills be paid? If you are living in the family home during the divorce but your partner moves out, can you afford to pay the mortgage or rent alone or should your former partner continue to contribute?
  • Should your banking arrangements be kept the same while the divorce progresses? By way of an example, if household expenses are paid out of a joint account, it is usually easier to continue this while you discuss long-term arrangements.
  • Can you and your partner afford two separate households? By way of an example, one you may want to move into private rented accommodation.
  • What changes should or should not be made to the status quo?

Our divorce solicitors can provide practical guidance and support, so you don’t have to worry unnecessarily about your finances during the initial stages of your divorce.

What should be included in a financial settlement?

You and your former partner will have an obligation to give complete and accurate disclosure to each other and the court.

Arrangement of money, assets and personal belongings

Your financial settlement should make provision for the division of your money and assets, including:

  • The family home
  • Any other property
  • Savings accounts
  • Investments
  • Personal belongings
  • Pensions
  • Debts and other financial obligations

When deciding how to divide these items, you should focus on achieving fairness. Under family law, fairness means both party’s needs are fulfilled and both can maintain a reasonable standard of living and that they received a fair share of the assets built up during the marriage.  The needs of any children will be the court’s first consideration.  Thereafter, when. deciding how much each party should get, the law states that the following factors should be taken into account:

  • Each party’s financial resources, income and future earning capacity.
  • Each party’s financial needs and obligations.
  • Each party’s contribution to the relationship (this does not have to be financial but can include things like raising children or keeping the house).
  • The parties ages and the length of the relationship.
  • The standard of living enjoyed by the couple during the marriage.
  • Either party’s mental or physical disability.
  • Any benefits lost by either party as a result of the divorce, such as pension benefits.
  • Either party’s conduct, but only if it’s so unreasonable you cannot disregard it. (for example, very serious violence.)

Spousal maintenance

Where you are financially weaker or stronger than your former partner, it may be necessary to negotiate spousal maintenance payments. Our divorce lawyers can help you discuss the available options with your partner, including:

  • A one-off lump sum maintenance payment – This is possible a ‘clean break’ from your partner, with no ongoing financial commitments, a one-off maintenance payment based on how much the financially weaker party will need to become financially independent.
  • Ongoing maintenance payments – many former spouses receive or pay ongoing payments (usually monthly) calculated to enable the financially weaker party to meet their living costs.

Child maintenance

In many divorces involving children, one parent remains the primary resident carer, with the other having regular agreed contact. Our sympathetic divorce lawyers understand that the welfare of your children is likely to be your paramount concern and that, whenever possible, their lives should be disrupted as little as possible.

We can assist you in coming to a child maintenance agreement which suits every member of the family and enables you to maintain your children’s everyday expenses.

How to negotiate a financial settlement

Dispute Resolution for financial matters

Whenever possible, we encourage clients to use Dispute Resolution to resolve their financial matters so as to avoid court proceedings which can quickly turn confrontational.

We offer different options for Dispute Resolution which have high success rates:

  • Solicitor-led negotiations – our team includes specialist lawyers who can negotiate on your behalf in correspondence or at ‘round-table meetings’ where each party has a lawyer present.
  • Family mediation – our team includes three trained mediators, Peter Burgess, David Lillywhite and Henrietta Thomas, who can sit down with you and your former partner at a series of mediation meetings to discuss and arrange your financial matters. The mediator’s role is not to tell you what to do but to facilitate your negotiations, diffusing conflict when necessary.
  • Collaborative law – David Lillywhite is also a trained collaborative lawyer with specialist knowledge in the area of financial matters on divorce. Collaborative law involves attending a meeting or series of meetings with your former partner in a neutral environment to discuss your financial settlement. Your respective collaborative lawyers will also attend to advise you and negotiate on your behalf. Collaborative law is often suitable where couples have complicated finances or there are overseas assets involved.
  • Private court processes – we are experienced at organising private court hearings which are both non-binding (Private FDRs) or binding (Arbitration).  Both may be better, cheaper alternatives to the traditional court process.

Once you and your former partner agree your financial settlement, we can help you make it legally binding by applying to court for a Consent Order.

Financial court orders

In the event that an agreement can be reached, neither party will need to attend court. However, if court proceedings become necessary, you will be represented by us or by a barrister at any hearings.

At the preliminary hearings, the court will encourage the parties to reach a settlement agreement, but if that is not possible there may have to be a final hearing at which a judge will make a decision about the division of family assets. However, we are able to help the majority of our clients settle before a final hearing.

Why choose Burgess Mee’s divorce lawyers in London?

Burgess Mee is a dedicated family law firm in London specialising in providing bespoke legal services to every type of family.

Our approach is tailored depending on the particular circumstances of your case and you can always trust that our advice will be accurate, practical, and reliable.

Many members of our team are members of Resolution, a community of legal professionals skilled in methods of Dispute Resolution, including:

Peter Burgess and Henrietta Thomas are also trained mediators and David Lillywhite is a mediator and collaborative lawyer.

We are commended for our family law skills in The Times’ Best Law Firms 2019, and recognised in the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners for our expertise.

Burgess Mee Family Law is independently regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Get in touch with our divorce solicitors today

For further advice and information about sorting out financial matters on divorce, give us a call on +44 (0)203 824 9950, fill in the simple enquiry form at the top of the page, or answer a few questions for some instant advice.