The Office for National Statistics Wellbeing Study shows that 34.79% of married couples or civil partners rate their satisfaction with life as very high compared to 28.9% of cohabitees and 21% of singletons.
Despite this clear contentment, the same statistics indicate that money worries are one of the main pressures on marriages. During divorce, financial issues are also frequently the most complicated, stressful and emotional aspect.
There are two stages to reaching a financial settlement. Firstly, each party must fully and frankly disclose their financial circumstances to the other. Experts may also be required to report on the value of property, business and pension options.
The second stage determines the financial settlement. We do not have a formulaic approach as every case is different. The law is flexible to adapt to individual circumstances.
There is no automatic entitlement to an equal share of the assets although this will be appropriate in some cases. The Courts have wide discretion to redistribute income and assets to achieve a settlement which is fair to both parties in the light of all the circumstances including statutory factors such as income, earning capacity, resources, needs, standard of living, the parties’ ages, duration of marriage and their contributions to family life.
First consideration is the welfare of any children under 18 and in practical terms, this means ensuring they and their main carer are suitably housed. This does not mean the needs of the other parent will be overlooked. The settlement should balance the financial needs of both parents with the available resources while making proper arrangements for the children’s needs.
It is important to adopt a pragmatic approach and work hard to reach an agreed settlement if possible.