The first thing you need to understand about divorce settlement entitlement is that there is no formula in England and Wales. Each judge hearing a case has the discretion to decide upon a ‘fair’ settlement after hearing the facts of the case and applying the law.
One of the lead judgments actually says: “Features which are important when assessing fairness differ in each case. And, sometimes, different minds can reach different conclusions on what fairness requires. Then fairness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.”
Equal division is common
That being said, the general rule for everything but short marriages is to add everything up and divide by two. The court will depart from equality, most often to make allowances for the care of children and/or to meet the needs of one of the parties. There are also arguments that can be deployed to show that one party to the marriage made a ‘special contribution’ or a ‘salary sacrifice’ that can convince a judge that one party should be left with a majority of the assets following a divorce. These strategies come with a large health warning as the court will need good evidence to move the dial from an equal division.
Identifying and valuing assets
The most complex part of the divorce is often not the division but the identification and valuation of the assets. Divorcing couples can spend a lot of effort in determining the pie that is to be shared. Also, one party will often be left with assets of one type ie: property and asked to balance this with assets of a different type: ie pension. Spending during the divorce (including legal costs) is also fraught with difficulty.
This all takes place in the first stages of the financial settlement and is where expert advice is often required. The valuation of assets is not a stage to be rushed; if it is done poorly then how can each party know that the final settlement is actually fair?
What support is available?
Richard Nelson LLP has a specialist team of divorce lawyers experienced in navigating these waters. We will always try our best to settle by establishing realistic expectations and using every alternative to court, including mediation and arbitration. Some cases will require the assistance of the court and we have the experience to prepare client’s cases to maximise their opportunity to achieve fairness.