Family finances make divorce negotiations increasingly complex

Divorce rates are on the rise, according to the latest statistics, and with the increase in the value of family assets, couples should do more to face up to financial affairs during the good times according to professionals.

According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the overall rate of divorce for opposite-sex couples has increased for the first time since 2009, at 5.8% in 2016, with men and women aged 45 to 49 recording the highest number of divorces.

Women continue to be more likely to petition for divorce in opposite-sex marriages, at 61% in 2016, and this trend was reflected among same-sex couples, with female couples accounting for 78% of such divorces.

There is only one ground for divorce ‘irretrievable breakdown” and the most common fact for supporting this continues to be unreasonable behaviour, with 36% of all husbands and 51% of all wives petitioning for divorce on this fact.

And although the overall number of divorces remains well below its 2003 peak, experts say that the process of divorce, negotiating over finances and family arrangements, is becoming ever more complex, and suggest couples should be more open to making agreements and understanding finances from the outset.

The increased value of family assets means more is at stake, particularly for middle-aged couples, when couples come to hammer out a fair division after a marriage breakdown. Wealth statistics from ONS show that by 2014 half of all households had total wealth of £225,100 or more.

And although family property tends to be thought of as the biggest asset, the figures show private pension wealth was the largest component of aggregate total wealth. Values have surged thanks to stock market increases, and changes in legislation have opened the door to greater flexibility in accessing pension pots, making them increasingly important in divorce negotiations.

As a result, many more partners are seeking a share of pension arrangements on divorce. Ministry of Justice figures show a 43% increase in pension sharing orders, at 11,503 in the 2016-17 tax year, compared to 8,027 in 2015-16. Pension sharing orders are issued by the court, setting out the share of a pension an ex-wife or husband will receive from their former spouse.

In recent years, spouses divorcing after a long marriage have come to expect an equal share of all assets, irrespective of any decision on needs, and whether or not one was the home maker.

But a recent Court of Appeal ruling in Hart v Hart, saw a wife awarded £3.5m, out of total resources of just under £9.4m, in a decision which some have interpreted as a shift in attitude. The judgement gave greater weight to the pre-marriage wealth of the husband, despite a 23-year marriage, with the wife’s settlement based on a calculation of needs, rather than equal sharing of assets.

Said family law expert Jane Wheeler of Waterlooville based solicitors Verisona Law. “This case was a complicated one, and it is unusual to see pre-marital wealth being given such consideration after a relatively long marriage, during which finances may have mingled.

“But, together with the increasingly complex finances of those embarking on second or subsequent marriages, it’s an outcome that may encourage more new couples to seek pre-nuptial agreements, or sometimes post-nuptial. While such agreements are not legally binding in England and Wales, they are likely to be upheld, if done properly, following the 2010 landmark case of Radmacher v Granatino. It’s a way of clearly setting out what each person has brought into the relationship, in case of any later division of assets and final payout.”

She added: “What is important is open communication and understanding of financial affairs, and making such an agreement can help couples to have a more frank discussion at the outset. Often, one partner may take the lead on finances, or some couples may just avoid it, as they think it’s a tricky topic. But understanding what you have today, in a positive, settled relationship, may mean you can better cope if the worst happens and things become difficult in the future.”

Hart v Hart [2017] EWCA Civ 1306 (31 August 2017)

Radmacher (formerly Granatino) v Granatino [2010] UKSC 42


We have set out below a full list of the services our Family Department can provide whatever your circumstances. If you do however have a query which does not relate to any matter detailed below, please do contact our Family team who will endeavour to assist you.

Divorce or Civil Partnership Dissolution

Whether you are the Petitioner or the Respondent within proceedings or whether you are simply contemplating the same we can provide guidance throughout the entire process. We can assist with:

  • Drafting of documents
  • Negotiations with the other party
  • Correspondence with third parties such as the Court
  • Advice face to face, by telephone, by email.

Pre-Nuptial and Post-Nuptial Agreements

Whether you are planning to marry or indeed have now married and wish to formalise arrangements in the event of separation we can advise and assist with the following:

  • Drafting agreements
  • Negotiating settlement
  • Corresponding with all parties

Separation

Whether you are married or living together and in the event you decide to go your separate ways we can assist in formally documenting terms of separation. We can assist in the following ways:

  • Drafting Separation Agreements whether in contemplation of divorce or whether to simply record the split of a cohabiting couple
  • Negotiations with third parties
  • Providing you with advice whether face to face, by telephone or by email.

Arbitration

Arbitration is an alternative to resolving disputes through the Court. At Verisona Law we can assist in a number of ways either by assisting you through the Arbitration or by referring matters to our in house Arbitrator. We offer competitive arbitration rates and a member of our team will be happy to assist with any queries in this regard. Please see our current articles on Arbitration for more details about the process.

Cohabitees/living together

If you have chosen not to marry but wish to live together you may wish to formalise the arrangements and details for doing so. We can assist in the following:

  • Drafting cohabitation agreements/living together agreements
  • Negotiations with all parties
  • Advising you in person, by telephone or email as appropriate.

Divorce where Business are involved

We have extensive experience in dealing with breakdown of marriage where one or both parties are owners of businesses or indeed it may be the family business. We have experience in providing you with advice and signposting for business valuations and will ensure that the business as an asset is dealt with appropriately within any proceedings.

Pensions

In addition to being able to provide specialised advice in relation to Public Sector pensions our team at Verisona Law has vast knowledge concerning all pension arrangements and can ensure that they are dealt with appropriately within any divorce proceedings. Please seek advice from a member of our team.

Parental Responsibility

We are able to advise on all aspects of Parental Responsibility including:

  • Agreements / Orders
  • Exercising your Parental Responsibility rights and duties where appropriate
  • Arising out of Parental Responsibility we can advise on applications for a Specific Issue Order to the Court if appropriate.

If you have any queries concerning Parental Responsibility and its impact on you or indeed whether you have Parental Responsibility for your children, please seek advice from a member of our team.

Assisting through Mediation

Whilst we do direct a number of matters through Mediation, this does not mean that you cannot have legal advice throughout the process. We can advise and assist you through the Mediation process and arrange thereafter to draw up formally any agreement reached be this by way of a Consent Order in divorce proceedings or simply to record in an open document the agreement you have reached at Mediation concerning the subject of your dispute.

Property Disputes

Whether you are married or otherwise, or indeed simply have an interest in a property owned by another we can provide you with advice and assistance including;

  • Applications to the Court
  • Negotiations with all parties
  • Advising and assisting you face to face, by telephone or by email.

Collaborative Law

This is an alternative way to resolve family disputes without the involvement of the Court. The Collaborative process requires both parties to have a Collaborative Lawyer and endeavours to resolve any disputes by way of four way meetings. We at Verisona Law can assist you through the Collaborative process. If this is an avenue of resolving dispute that you would be interested in, please contact a member of our team.

Children

We at Verisona Law can provide you with advice and guidance concerning any disputes you may have relating to your child. This may be with whom the child lives, with whom the child spends time with, a specific issue concerning a child or steps that you wish to take to prevent something happening (Prohibited Steps Order). We can also advise you in relation to maintenance disputes with a third party guidance with dealing with the Child Maintenance Service. If you have a query with any issue concerning your child please contact a member of our team.

Change of Name

Please contact a member of our team if you are interested in changing your first or surname to discuss the drafting of a Change of Name Deed. We offer a fixed price for a Change of Name and we can provide you with further information upon request.

I went to Verisona Law because I had been unsatisfied with two previous attempts with other firms. Verisona gave that real sense of service, made.me feel like a client they were happy to assist at all times and ultimately gave the BEST advice and guidance. Dont waste money; go to Verisona FIRST!


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