Know your fair share in divorce
Know Your Fair Share – The Importance of Financial Disclosure in Achieving a Fair Outcome
In a landmark study, ‘Fair Shares? Sorting out money and property on divorce’ published in November 2023, the University of Bristol and the Nuffield Foundation, sheds an unprecedented light on how divorcing couples in England and Wales manage their financial arrangements.
According to the Nuffield Foundation website,
100,000 couples divorce each year in England and Wales, and the financial arrangements they make can determine the future standard of living for them and their children. However, only a third of divorcing couples use the legal system to reach a financial settlement: the remaining two thirds negotiate their own arrangements or reach no settlement at all.
The main concern highlighted in the report is that due to fear of legal costs, many individuals lack awareness of their own and their partner's financial position when negotiating a fair outcome and 'clean break.' This lack of awareness often leads to an unfair outcome. The report highlights the need for full and frank financial disclosure to gain a complete insight into the assets held by divorcing couples. After all, how can you determine what a fair share of the pie is, without first knowing the size of the pie? This holds true for financial arrangements during separation as well.
Disclosure, what is it?
The term ‘disclosure’ may sound technical; however, it is the process of both parties providing the other with their complete detailed financial position, this is used to uncover the couples’ marital pot to aid in negotiating a fair settlement. This process is thorough and can be completed via an exchange of Form E either voluntarily by agreement, or in mediation, or as directed by the court if one person has made an application for financial remedy.
This is done via ‘disclosure’. It is a thorough process and often includes details about the following:
- Current Income, from all sources of income;
- Not just to include full time employment, but any and all other forms of income such as self-employment, rent receipts, share dividends, etc.
- Future outgoings (expenditure)
- This is done by ‘predicting’ future costs such as housing, food, rent, entertainment, gym membership etc.
- Any and all assets and liabilities which each person has.
- This includes assets such as property, cars, collectibles, pensions etc.
- This includes liabilities such as credit cards, car finance, loans etc.
- Evidence to support the above.
- This is fundamental to identify the specifics of the assets or liabilities.
- Evidence may be required if experts to assist in valuing assets and associated liabilities, such as capital gains tax.
This process is detailed and can be time-consuming to complete, given the level of evidence required. However, it is a vital part of the information gathering process to fully understand the nature of each other’s financial circumstances, contributions and needs for not only now, but the future too.
Financial Mediation’s role
The study discovered that many couples avoid solicitors because they're afraid of the costs going up. In this situation, mediation can be a cost-effective choice for those looking for guidance and support in completing the disclosure process together.
Jennifer Allen, an equity partner and trained mediator at the firm, often helps both separated and divorcing couples with financial disclosure. With years of experience in this, she knows the potential issues and the necessary information for successful disclosure.
Mediation can be a helpful setting for discussing and working on disclosure. It involves both parties collaborating to assess their financial situation and provide evidence. Jennifer offers both in-person and online mediation sessions. The process is gradual, and she can guide clients on what information is needed and how to organize it. Once all necessary information is gathered, Jennifer facilitates discussions to help achieve a fair settlement for both parties.
Legal Expertise in Financial Settlements
Having a knowledgeable legal professional who's skilled in dealing with Form E's and the associated process can help clear up any confusion about the wording or evidence needed. Moreover, having someone manage communication with your ex-partner can ease the stress and emotional aspects of the process.
If you want to be cautious about costs but still value a solicitor's involvement, many solicitors offer assistance on a per-need basis. This means you can hire them for specific tasks, like completing disclosure, instead of handling the entire divorce process.
At Hughes Paddison, our aim is providing our clients and their children with a secure and comfortable future standard of living. Therefore, we recommend taking legal advice at the outset to understand the purpose of disclosure and the impact this has on wanting to achieve a fair outcome.
Please get in touch by calling 01242 574244 and asking for our Family Team or by emailing Jennifer Allen, Equity Partner and Family Law Director email@example.com, who will be happy to help.
Law Commission: https://lawcom.gov.uk/project/financial-remedies-on-divorce/
Contact our experts for further advice
The information contained on this page has been prepared for the purpose of this blog/article only. The content should not be regarded at any time as a substitute for taking legal advice.