Sorting out all the aspects of money is the most disconcerting part of separation and divorce for couples. Joanne McDonald one of the solicitors in CWJ's Family department, answers a few typical questions...
How will the matrimonial assets be divided on divorce?
Typically all assets held in the joint and sole names of a husband and wife will be considered matrimonial assets which are available to divide between the parties. These assets typically include the family home, savings, pensions, investments and personal belongings. The starting point when dividing these assets is equality. The court will then assess whether an equal division would be fair when other factors are considered, to include the length of marriage and whether there are any children together with the income, earning capacity, ages and needs of the parties. Once these factors have been considered it is possible in certain circumstances for there to be an unequal division of assets between parties.
How will I support myself after a divorce?
Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to apply for maintenance payments from your spouse (spousal maintenance). When assessing whether spousal maintenance should be paid, and if so, how much, the court will assess the income and outgoings of both parties. If you have a shortfall in your outgoings that your spouse could afford to meet either in full or part, a court could make an order accordingly.
How will I afford to support our children?
A parent who does not live with their children (non-resident parent) has an obligation to pay child maintenance to the party with whom the children live (primary carer). You can agree with your spouse the level of child maintenance paid, or you can make an application to the child maintenance service (CMS) for them to calculate what should be paid based on a number of factors. These factors include the gross income of the non-resident parent, how many children there are and how many nights per year the children stay overnight with the non-resident parent.
My spouse and I have been separated for 6 months but we do not want to divorce yet. Can we still agree to sort out our finances now?
An agreement could be reached now about your finances and recorded in a document called a Deed of Separation. This would typically include a provision that you both agree to a divorce in the future and that you also agree to converting the terms of the Deed of Separation into a Consent Order, which the court would need to approve when you do divorce. A Deed of Separation is usually binding in future divorce proceedings, unless there is a significant change in circumstances . You should both seek independent legal advice and give each other full financial disclosure to ensure that the Deed is as binding as possible.