Divorce: the importance of getting it right

For many people, the New Year heralds a new start and, for some, this new start means taking steps to bring an unhappy relationship to an end. In fact, January is traditionally seen as the busiest time of the year for couples filing for divorce.

Divorce is a significant life-changing event for any couple and, as such, can be a highly emotional and stressful time. This is why it is important to get it right, particularly where financial matters are concerned, so it is essential to seek expert advice from a qualified solicitor.

Once you have decided to separate, a solicitor can advise you regarding your options including divorce proceedings. If you decide to divorce, you will need to think about how your property and assets will be divided between you. Many assume that everything will be shared 50-50, but in practice it is not quite as straightforward. For example, will one of you continue to live in the former matrimonial home or will you sell it and split the proceeds?

This is where obtaining legal advice regarding your financial position is crucial. In most cases that advice should enable you to reach a sensible agreement with your spouse. Such an agreement can be embodied within a Consent Order. A Consent Order is a legal document setting out the financial agreement reached and once approved by the Court, it becomes legally binding. It can only be overturned in exceptional circumstances, such as in the event of fraud, a mistake or an ‘intervening event’, which must usually be an event which occurred within 12 months of the Consent Order being sealed, was not considered at the time of the divorce or is so significant that it undermines the terms of the Consent Order itself.

In addition to the family home, the Consent Order will also take into consideration how assets such as other property, shares, family businesses or endowment insurance policies will be distributed. In terms of personal property and furniture, each party normally retains their own goods although there may be a need to sell them or transfer ownership to the other spouse. The Order can also address important issues such as child maintenance and any debts from the marriage.

Failing to consider these matters at the time of your divorce could leave you open to a financial claim from your former partner years later. The Consent Order can also include a Clean Break Order, which formally prevents your ex-spouse from making any claims for a share of your property, assets, income or pensions in the future. This could include unexpected cash windfalls, such as inheritance or lottery wins.

Everyone’s situation is different, so it is always best to seek professional legal advice at the earliest opportunity to discuss the options available to you. For advice on the law surrounding relationship breakdowns, including marriage, civil partnerships and cohabitation, please contact our Basildon office on 01268 240000, our Thurrock office on 01375 484444 or our South Woodham Ferrers office on 01245 322111.

For more information and advice, please contact Surjit Verdi.