Most people contemplating divorce will initially think about when to separate from each other, swiftly followed by a “How am I going to live?”.
As we all know one pot of money which can meet the needs of two people living together in one household is unlikely (in most circumstances) to stretch well to meet two households.
That’s where a good solicitor comes in. Whilst often thoughts are with divorce “I’m going to take everything” or “I’m going to have nothing” the law in fact provides for both parties (regardless of how the marriage ended – although there are some very rare exceptions).
Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 is referred to by lawyers as “The Welfare Checklist” and this is something that the Court has to have regard to when looking at the financial settlement either agreed by a couple (or in the alternative ordered by the Court). This checklist requires all parties to consider the following:
- Income and earning capacity of both parties;
- Their needs and obligations (such as care of young children);
- Standard of living;
- Age of the parties and length of the marriage;
- Health needs including disabilities;
- Contributions by parties;
- Conduct (in very rare circumstances);
- Value lost by divorce (usually interests in pensions for example – ie. the loss of a future widow’s pension).
It may surprise people to know that the number of cases that go to a final hearing where the judge decides a settlement is in fact very few. The majority of cases will often settle, sometimes with help from a District Judge, with the aid of good and sensible solicitors and good preparation.
So, where do you go from here? The first thing to do is for the parties to exchange financial disclosure. This includes the value of any assets (such as property or savings and pensions), the amount of any debts (such as credit cards and loans). This is important as we need to know what there is before we can help advise how it can be divided between you.
We also advise clients to look at the housing market as to suitable properties for not just themselves but also their spouse. We look at all aspects of housing from, staying in the property and buying the spouse out of their interest, shared ownership (with a housing association), normal purchase of a home or renting.
The options are often limited by the amount of capital available to both parties and may be affected by whether there are children to rehouse with one party. This helps parties to be realistic about what should happen.
To be able to look at housing needs we also need to know your mortgage capacity and that of your spouse. The Court would consider a mortgage capacity to be an asset of sorts in that it assists the decisions on the division of capital from the marriage (i.e. if one spouse has a greater mortgage capacity then this may free up capital to help the other spouse with a lower mortgage capacity to be equally housed).
Pensions are generally shared between spouses on divorce (although where there is greater capital available it may be with agreement that there is an offsetting of pension interest by the payment of a greater share of capital).
As for income, a non-resident parent has a duty in law to pay maintenance for his children. This is based on a percentage of gross income. Parties can either reach agreement or if not then the question of maintenance will go through the Child Maintenance Service (formerly the CSA). For information on calculation of maintenance click here.
Depending in circumstances there may be a liability for maintenance to a spouse. This would be if there are young children or some disability or where there is a shortfall in their income versus their outgoings. If the spouse is in good health then a Court may limit the time for maintenance (for example to enable perhaps a spouse to retrain for employment) as the Courts are required under Section 25A of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 to achieve a clean break at the earliest possible time.
If any of the above affects you, we offer a free initial meeting when we can consider your matter and advise on the way forward. For an appointment please ring the Family Team on 01202 877400 (Ferndown Office) or 01305 470051 (Weymouth Office).