Divorce: Dividing Matrimonial Assets
19th December 2016
Though it may be a myth that there are more relationship breakdowns over the festive period, I do find that I open more new files in January than at any other time of the year. On the approach to the festive season then, I hope this blog might offer some insight to couples who are separating.
Obtaining a divorce can be relatively easy. Very often, the hardest thing for clients is resolving the matrimonial finances instead. It is always difficult advising clients on what they can expect from a divorce settlement. Everyone wants to know what they will receive and when, but no two cases are ever the same. There is no set formula for division of income and assets.
Under section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, we have to consider the following factors when negotiating a financial settlement:
- The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources of the parties, including earning capacity;
- the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities of each party;
- the standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage;
- the age of each party to the marriage and the duration of the marriage;
- any physical or mental disability of either of the parties to the marriage;
- the contributions which each of the parties has made or likely to make;
- the conduct of each of the parties;
- the value to each of the parties to the marriage of any benefitwhich, by reason of the dissolution or annulment of the marriage, that party will lose the chance of acquiring.
It is always a good idea to collate all of the relevant financial documents in support of each of the factors above. This helps me to advise clients properly. You may find the list below helpful in understanding what should be collated:
- A copy of your last mortgage statement, showing how much is owed on the former matrimonial home.
- Statements for each bank or building society account in your name (solely or jointly) covering the last twelve months.
- Any documentation you have to confirm any Shares, PEPs, ISAs, Tessas, National Savings Investments, Bonds, Stocks, Unit Trusts, Investment Trusts, Gilts, or any other quoted securities.
- A copy of any life insurance policy or endowment policy in your joint name or sole name, together with any accompanying correspondence.
- A list of any personal belongings that are individually worth more than £500 each.
- A copy of any bank loan or HP agreement on which you owe money.
- Credit card statements from the last three months for each credit card you have.
- A copy of any pension policy that you have together with any accompanying correspondence.
- Your last three months’ worth of pay slips.
- Your last P60.
- Documentary evidence of any other income you might receive.
I also like to determine exactly what the client’s monthly outgoings are and what the client can afford. Why? Simply put, it can be difficult housing two people from one pot – so I need to establish what is a fair split for this particular couple and their children. How much do they both reasonably need going forward, and how should the income and assets be fairly shared between them?
A client’s expectations can often be too high, and sometimes may even be too low. Once I understand a client’s situation and what they want, I can then begin to advise on what would be achievable.
The longer the marriage, the more likely that the starting point of negotiations will be an equal split of matrimonial assets. This relates to assets accrued during the marriage only. If the union was a short marriage of five years or less, the starting point will likely be that the parties leave the marriage with the same share they had when entering into it.
Children, though, change everything. Their needs come first. The primary carer will often need more money to care for the children and, depending on the other factors above, could therefore receive more than fifty per cent of the available assets. Furthermore, if the matrimonial assets are insufficient to meet the needs of the children, then other assets will be drawn upon.
Divorce is a difficult time, whether at Christmas or not. Engaging a specialist really can make it easier. If you have assets you need to divide, please do feel free to call me on 02476 531532.
Melanie Davis (née Timms)