Once divorce proceedings have been started the next step for many is to reach an agreement on their finances. The information below will provide you with a quick guide to the available options to you when reaching a financial settlement.
One of the most cost effective ways to reach an agreement on the finances is through mediation. Meditation helps people to make decisions on their finances following separation assisted by a trained and impartial mediator. Since April 2014 it is a legal requirement for anyone wanting to attend court on a family matter to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM). At the MIAM you will be advised on the mediation process, the applicable costs and an assessment undertaken as to whether mediation is suitable to your circumstances. It should be noted that the requirement to attend a MIAM will not be applicable in certain situations i.e. where there are concerns about domestic violence or serious harm to children.
If mediation is not successful or communication has broken down with your former spouse, then the next step would be for your Solicitor to make contact with your former spouse and request voluntary disclosure via the exchange of Form E financial statements. Form E is a comprehensive document used by the Courts which provides a full picture of your finances i.e. assets, income, pensions, liabilities and future needs and resources. Your Solicitor will require both parties to complete Form E in full and attach all the relevant supporting documentation e.g. property valuations, bank statements for the last 12 month period, pay slips, etc. in order to be in a position to advise on a financial settlement and begin negotiations.
If an agreement cannot be reached either through meditation or solicitors negotiations then the final option will be to make an application to the Court for a financial order. Once proceedings have been issued at your local Family Court and payment of the court fee, the Court will list the matter for a First Appointment. Both parties will be required to complete and exchange Form E financial statement a month before the hearing and a number of other documents will also need to be exchanged. The First Appointment is a directions hearing and relevant directions will be made in respect of outstanding information or documents from each party. The second hearing is the Financial Dispute Resolution hearing which is treated as a meeting held for the purpose of discussions and negotiations. If an agreement cannot be reached at the second hearing then the matter will proceed to a final hearing. It should be added that only a very small percentage of cases actually proceed to a final hearing.
Whichever method is used to reach a financial settlement the agreement reached will have to be recorded in a document called a consent order. The consent order will then be approved by the Court and sealed which will then make the agreement legally binding and enforceable.
Contact CSL Law if you would like to consider them representing you as your divorce solicitor.