This could be because a couple’s financial circumstances may be unusually complex, may involve multiple jurisdictions or may be complicated by disagreements about property or maintenance. In all these instances, the only likely way to achieve a settlement will be through the instruction of a divorce solicitor and by application to the court.
If you have reached the stage of considering court action, you are likely to have already attempted some form of mediation or family arbitration. In fact, you will be unable to apply to the court without having, at the very least, undergone a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM).
For others, court proceedings may begin alongside continued attempts to negotiate a settlement or perhaps by using a collaborative law approach.
When litigation may be the only option
There are certain possible instances when it may be necessary for you and your divorce solicitor to begin court proceedings without mediation. These include the following:
- Financial non-disclosure: a typical example would be when one spouse is not clear and transparent about financial information, including offshore investments, and the value of certain assets and earnings.
- Impossibility of negotiation: if one spouse is not open to dialogue, compromise and reasonable negotiation regarding a financial settlement.
- Complexity: if there are a complex array of assets and ownership structures, the only way to achieve fairness and clarity may be to make recourse to the courts.
- Violence or intimidation: if there is any instance of domestic violence, intimidation or other threatening behaviour, it will be necessary to pursue the case through the courts.
- Multiple jurisdictions: if there is an international component to the relationship and the subsequent divorce, you may need to begin divorce proceedings as soon as possible in England or Wales before it is initiated elsewhere which may be in a less favourable jurisdiction.
What can the court do?
The court has broad powers to make rulings on property and financial settlements on divorce. For example, a judge can make orders in relation to all of the following:
- Spousal maintenance and lump sum payments
- Clean break financial settlements
- Orders in relation to the sale or otherwise of property
- Dividing the proceeds of a property sale or sale of assets
- Pension sharing orders
- Pension attachment orders
It may be useful to note that a court can only include child maintenance in a financial order if the couple agree a suitable level of payments, but this is not enforceable and can be altered at a later date. If there is no agreement in this regard or a parent fails to keep to an agreed payment schedule, the case must be referred to the Child Maintenance Service.
For more information on children in divorce and separation, click through to our page on child arrangement orders and other children-related court orders.
What is the court’s procedure for divorce financial matters?
Once you apply to the court in respect of a divorce financial settlement, a compliance timetable will be drawn up and you will be made aware of all court hearings that you will be obliged to personally attend.
To apply you will need to file Form A with the court together with the fee of £255.00. The court will then issue the application. The following communications will be sent to both divorcing parties:
- A sealed copy of Form A
- A Notice of First Appointment: Form C
- A Notice of Response to First Appointment: Form G.
Form C is particularly important as it outlines the timetable for the case as well as the details of other important forms and fees, including the financial disclosure form: Form E.
It is worth bearing in mind that the length, complexity and cost of divorce financial proceedings will depend on the precise details of the case as well as the positions adopted by the divorcing parties and their divorce solicitor legal teams. As a general rule, in the event of disagreement, it is likely to take between six months and two years to conclude divorce financial proceedings.
For a more in-depth breakdown of the court’s divorce financial settlement procedure, our Guide to Finances and Property on Divorce is a detailed and comprehensive booklet which sets out the Law and relevant procedures, including various options and an explanation of how costs are worked out..
Wellers Law Group divorce lawyers
Wellers Law Group has family law solicitors working from its offices in Bromley and Central London, as well as offices in Sevenoaks and Surrey.
We can help with all matters related to divorce, separation, financial settlement and child arrangements. However, please note that we do not offer either a legal aid service or advice regarding children where the local authority/children services are involved.
Call 020 8464 4242 for our Bromley team, 01732 457575 for Sevenoaks, 020 7481 6393 for central London or 01372 750100 for our Surrey team. Alternatively email your enquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org. We offer a fixed fee, no obligation one hour interview so that we may provide you with initial advice and suggest the options for your next course of action.