Financial Disclosure in Divorce

Making the decision to get divorced is just the beginning of the many decisions that you will need to make during the process of separating. Regardless of your situation, there will always be financial issues that need to be addressed.

These financial decisions could potentially have far-reaching effects on yours and your family’s future, and so it is essential to have an experienced divorce lawyer by your side who can advise on how to reach a fair settlement and, in light of your circumstances, what is the right avenue for you to go down to progress your divorce.

There are a number of different approaches to divorce settlements, including:

  • your solicitor dealing with the case and leading negotiations for you
  • dealing with matters collaboratively
  • mediation
  • arbitration
  • the use of private judicial hearings for a neutral evaluation of your case
  • court hearings

Plenty of options to consider, however, they should all reach the same outcome; a legally binding financial settlement, set down in a document called a Consent Order. Or, if reached by agreement, following arbitration, or in the case of a Court-imposed decision, a Court Order. Both will confirm how matrimonial finances are to be dealt with.

A fair settlement

The concept of fairness can be difficult to quantify, however, in a legal sense, it is what is reasonable and equitable considering the financial circumstances of both parties in the marriage. To establish this, there needs to be a detailed understanding of what is in the ‘matrimonial pot.’ You cannot fairly split any assets until you know what they are.

Most financial settlements will consider capital, income and pension. Often, it is the house which is the most valuable asset, but if it is burdened with a large mortgage there may be limited capital. It may be a pension which has the greater value, but you may not be able to access it for many years due to your age. Or, it may be a business which has provided the family with an income, and which may also have a capital value needing to be considered.

Before you can determine what is a fair settlement, full and frank financial disclosure will be facilitated by both parties (you and your spouse) using the standard ‘Form E’. This form is lengthy and can be complex to complete, however the risk of providing disclosure without completing this form is that an asset may be omitted, either accidentally or deliberately.

Once Form E is completed, the financial information is exchanged with the other party and which take place at the same time. Once you have the other party’s detailed financial information, you can then start to consider what a fair financial agreement may look like.

Hidden assets?

When reviewing your spouse’s financial statement (Form E) details, use your instincts and if there are any gaps you have the right to ask the other party to clarify those issues, before entering negotiations. You need a clear understanding to ensure that the final settlement reflects yours, and possibly your children’s needs, whilst also not ignoring the needs of the other party.

If someone is not willing to provide full and frank financial disclosure, then it may be necessary to issue court proceedings and place the division of the matrimonial finances into the hands of the Court. As lawyers, we cannot force someone to deal with financial matters on a voluntary basis, but a Judge has various powers at their disposal to ensure that the correct procedures are adhered to so that matters can be resolved.

The key to achieving a fair settlement in your divorce is to have a clear picture of both parties’ financial circumstances, backed up with the appropriate evidence. Once this is in place, we can make sure an offer is made and the best settlement achieved for you.

If you would like to know more about your options regarding divorce and financial disclosure, please contact us at our offices, or email our Family Law team on familylaw@woodfines.co.uk

– Kim Walsh