The hardest part…
Negotiating a financial settlement is often the hardest part of the divorce process. While you may both agree to the divorce itself, it is likely that there will be disagreements as to the way in which you should divide your assets. The matter will become particularly complicated if you have children who are still in full-time education, or you have been married for a long time.
As such, it is highly probable that your financial settlement will require some (or a lot of) negotiation. This can be difficult, especially if there are feelings of ill will between you. However, you can rest assured that there are plenty of options when it comes to negotiating your financial settlement, as well as a range of professionals who can help.
Negotiating between yourselves
Firstly, you can negotiate the division of your finances between yourselves. This is generally suitable if you do not have children together, and you do not own a lot of assets. If so, you may feel able to come to a mutually agreeable settlement, without the need to involves solicitors. This is perfectly acceptable, and by no means to you have to get a divorce lawyer.
However, we do recommend that you each seek independent legal advice before anything is set in stone. You might be entitled to more than you realise, or your ex could even be hiding assets from you. A family solicitor will be able to spot any issues with the proposed divorce settlement, ensuring that your agreement is fair and reasonable.
Once you have sought independent legal advice, it is prudent to ask the court to make your agreement legally binding. To do this, you need to apply for a Consent Order. As long as the judge is happy that the settlement you have agreed upon is fair, a court order will be issued. After this there will be a clean break between you and you cannot change your mind.
Negotiating via a mediator
If you cannot negotiate between yourselves, the next step is to try mediation. You will have to try mediation before taking the matter to court, although exceptions can be made – for instance, if you have been the victim of domestic abuse. But otherwise mediation is advised, as it can help to save a lot of time and money.
During mediation, you and your ex will meet with a specially trained mediator. This mediator is completely neutral and is there to help you settle the division of your finances. You can have as many meetings as you like, but you will both need to disclose your finances before the first meeting, as this will ensure that each person has all their cards on the table.
If you manage to reach an agreement, then you will each need to seek independent legal advice from a family law solicitor. If your lawyer suggests that the agreement is fair and reasonable, you can apply to the court for a Consent Order. As mentioned above, this will make the agreement legally binding and will cut the financial ties between you.
Negotiating via a solicitor
If mediation proves unsuccessful, or one person will not agree to attend, then your next option is to negotiate through a family law solicitor (also known as a divorce solicitor, divorce lawyer or family lawyer). You will each need your own family solicitor.
If you have not already disclosed your assets using a ‘Form E’ then you will need to do so at this point. This information will be shared with your ex’s solicitor and vice versa. Your solicitor can then consider the financial position of both you and your ex, and advise what would be considered reasonable according to the law.
Your solicitor will negotiate directly with your ex’s solicitor in an attempt to reach an agreeable financial settlement. Your solicitor will take instructions directly from you, but will advise you if they feel a proposed settlement is either fair or unfair.
Negotiating in the courts
If you cannot agree on a financial settlement with the help of your solicitors, your last option will be to go to court. Usually there will be two hearings, during which the court will try to help you come to an agreement. Most cases will settle at this time, but if not, there will be a final hearing where a judge will decide how your assets should be split.
There are various factors the judge will take into consideration when deciding a financial settlement. If you have children, then the primary concern is for their welfare. Their needs must be taken care of, as must the needs of both you and your ex. Once the judge has made his or her decision, the matter is final.
However, if there are extenuating circumstances, then you may actually be able to make an appeal. This might happen if your ex is found to be hiding assets to prevent them being included in the divorce settlement. Nevertheless, litigation through the courts can be expensive, and you should carefully consider whether it is something you want to pursue.
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If you are trying to negotiate a financial settlement after divorce, we understand how difficult it can be. To find out what your options are and how we can help you, please do not hesitate to contact us. For an informal chat or to book a consultation, call us on 0333 4564 444, or for international calls, dial +44 1992 505 406.