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Philippa and Robert: Divorce
Phillipa (53) and Robert (55) have been married for 35 years and have one child together who is living independently. They live in a three bedroom house in Kent. Robert works full-time as a business analyst for a bank and enjoys collecting rare and valuable war medals. Phillipa works part-time in a confectionary shop.
Over the last few years, Robert and Phillipa have grown apart and have spent less time together, with Robert travelling for his work and Phillipa regularly attending confectionary fairs in Devon. Two months ago, Robert returned home and Phillipa told him that she had fallen in love with another man and she wanted a divorce. Robert reluctantly agreed to a divorce but is concerned how a divorce would affect him financially. What does he need to consider?
Robert could file a petition for divorce on the basis that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. To prove this he will have to show one of five facts: adultery, behaviour, two years’ separation with Phillipa’s consent, five years separation without Philippa’s consent or desertion. Robert could petition based on Phillipa’s adultery but in order to do this, Phillipa would have to agree to sign a statement confirming that the adultery took place. Alternatively, Robert could issue the petition based on Phillipa’s behaviour and he would have to provide examples of this behaviour.
Once the petition has been issued, Phillipa will be served with a copy and she will need to file a form at court called an Acknowledgement of Service. The court will firstly pronounce a Decree Nisi (interim decree of divorce) and six weeks and one day later Robert can apply for the Decree Absolute (final decree of divorce). The Decree Absolute is often delayed until an agreement has been reached about the finances.
Family finances are dealt with separately from the divorce process. In order to ascertain the full value of the family assets, both Robert and Phillipa should undertake full financial disclosure. It is important to note that the division of family finances is unaffected by the reasons for the breakdown of the marriage save for in very specific circumstances such as severe financial misconduct. The starting point is an equal division but various additional factors will then be taken into account to determine what a fair settlement might be.
Capital and Housing Needs
As Robert and Phillipa’s child lives independently, the court will simply need to ensure that there is a fair split of the matrimonial assets to provide adequate housing for both Robert and Phillipa. The entire capital accumulated between the couple would be taken into account, which would include but is not limited to Robert’s valuable war medals, savings, policies, shares and bonds.
Robert should be aware that on the basis of the length of their marriage and the fact that he earns a considerably larger salary than Phillipa, Phillipa may need some spousal maintenance (monthly income) from him to supplement her income. Phillipa would also be encouraged to maximise her income by for example, increasing her working hours.
Robert should be made aware that due to the length of their marriage, Phillipa may be entitled to a share of his pension.
Robert should contact a family law solicitor who can provide him with legal advice about his options for the divorce and the finances.