The complexity of divorce settlements

Splitting up with somebody is never an easy or enjoyable experience, but once you have decided to go your separate ways it's important to start thinking about protecting your interests. 

In time, a divorce settlement will be agreed, so knowing what you stand to lose, gain or compromise on is a good first step.

Only last month, the Law Commission revealed its belief that settlements must become clearer, with judges and participants in desperate need of more financial information if a fair agreement is to be reached.

It noted that a lack of clarity plagues this issue in the UK at the moment and that is only adding to the despair of divorcees as they cut all ties with their former partner. 

The body suggested that legislation should be overhauled so that the subject is given a new definition and purpose and people ultimately come out of a divorce settlement with a greater degree of satisfaction.

Professor Elizabeth Cooke, who is leading a public consultation on the issue, said that it's currently too difficult to explain exactly what the regulations behind divorce are. "It would be far clearer if the law was to state what is to be achieved," she told the BBC.

While the Law Commission acts in cases in England and Wales, in Scotland there is a strong preference for people not to be asked to support their ex-wife or ex-husband beyond a period of three years.

The way a divorce settlement is currently calculated is complex and can be completed in a number of ways. 

In most cases, both a husband and wife will agree to voluntary disclosure, which means that all their financial information is open to solicitors and can be used to assess their worth.

If one or both parties are not happy to disclose their financial details, there are other avenues to pursue. 

For instance, the next step might be a court procedure, in which case an application will be made for the issue to be dissected in a legal house. The disadvantage of this is that it is slow - often taking at least 12 months - but the process can be curtailed if an agreement is reached at any stage.

You might also want to consider collaborative law. This is where all of the parties commit to reaching an agreement and not going to court, so husbands, wives and their solicitors typically meet up for negotiations. This gives each party the chance to air their feelings and make their demands.

Should you be in the unfortunate position of going through a divorce settlement, it might be worth thinking of every possible way to reach an agreement.

The first tip is to work out exactly what your joint assets are worth, as this will give you a good idea of how much there is to split. It is also worth getting expert advice so that you know exactly what you are entitled to, taking control of all your own finances and deciding how to manage any joint accounts.

And perhaps most importantly of all, speak to your spouse. You never know, an agreement might be nearer than you realise.


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Published on: October 31, 2012

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