Navigating the path to divorce
Whether the realisation that your relationship has come to an end occurs suddenly, or over a prolonged period of time, it’s in those early days of planning divorce that you’re at risk of making ‘knee jerk’ or impulsive decisions.
Not fully considering the consequences can lead to difficulties later on down the line. That’s why it’s so important that you stop to take stock of your situation with a team of experts who can help and guide you.
Top considerations and next steps for divorce
Divorce proceedings and when to apply for your final order
Once you have reached your decision that your relationship has come to an end, there is merit in starting the divorce process as soon as possible.
The divorce process has recently undergone lots of change and is much more streamlined and easy to follow than ever before. That being said, there are mandatory time frames that you must abide by – 20 weeks from the issue of your petition to the granting of your conditional order, and 6 weeks and 1 day from the granting of your conditional order to your final order – and therefore, it is not as quick as many people think.
Importantly, you need to reach at least the conditional order stage in your divorce proceedings before any financial agreement can be approved by the court. Therefore, it is best to begin your divorce proceedings earlier rather than later to start the initial 20 week clocking ticking.
It is important to note that if it takes you longer than 20 weeks to reach a financial settlement, then that is absolutely fine. Your conditional order will not ‘run out’ and you do not have to immediately apply for your final order. In fact, in some circumstances it’s actually wise to wait to do so.
It is important to get legal advice on this point as a decision on when to apply for your final order should be determined on a case by case basis. It is better however to at least reach the conditional order stage of your divorce proceedings, or be working towards it, whilst you consider how to divide your finances.
Gather financial information
Whether you have been at the heart of your family finances, your spouse has taken control of the finances in the main, or whether your finances have been kept separate, it is important to gather as much information as you can as to what your assets and liabilities are to outline the matrimonial pot. These may be held in either the sole, or joint names of you both.
Proper consideration of your assets and liabilities will help bring clarity as to what it is that you have to divide upon separation. Without it, you will find yourself working upon assumptions and estimates, which often leads to confusion and anger. It can also bring delay and increase your costs significantly.
Tips for establishing your financial position:
- Take the opportunity to jot down your finances as you understand them to be, using exact figures where available
- Examples of assets may include property, bank accounts, investments, bonds, shares, cryptocurrencies, pensions, and any belongings valued over £500 such as jewelry, cars, and furniture
- Examples of liabilities may include mortgages, loans, credit cards or hire purchase agreements
- In addition to assets and liabilities, consider whether there are any important documents such as pre or post nuptial agreements or trusts for example, that need to be taken into account
- Where there are businesses, or interests in businesses, try to establish how the business interest is held (sole trader/partner/limited company) and what the estimated turnover of that business may be.
You may already know this information or you may need to undertake further enquires to establish this. Your legal advisor can guide you as to how best achieve this depending on the type of business, and amount of information that is needed.
Once you have a rough idea of your matrimonial pot you can share this with your legal advisor who will be able to offer initial guidance as to what your settlement may look like.
Please note, your advisor can only provide indications at an early stage and the only way to receive comprehensive advice is for both you and your spouse to go through a process of full and frank disclosure. There are several ways to achieve this depending on your circumstances, and your advisor can advise you as to the merits of each option.
Consider updating your Will
If you don’t have a Will, or you have one that has not been updated in a while, now is a good time to make proper arrangements.
If you don’t have a Will, the law steps in and assumes that you intend to leave everything to your spouse. If you are seeking to separate, this is unlikely to be your intention so it is important that you set out exactly what it is that you do what to happen to your assets should you pass away.
If you do have a Will, it is likely that your spouse is included within it and for the reasons set out above, it is good practice to get your intentions updated. If your spouse is not included within your Will but your Will was made before you married, it is important that you take specialist advice as it may be the case that irrespective of your wishes, there is an overriding ‘invisible’ assumption that when you married, you intended for everything to go to your spouse.
Severing your tenancy and lodging a home rights notice
When you decide to start the divorce process, it is important that you establish how any properties are held. They may be in the sole name of one person, or in the joint names of you both.
If there are jointly owned properties, these can be held at Land Registry in one of two ways, either as a joint tenants or tenants in common. However the properties are held, it is important to obtain advice as to whether any steps need to be taken in order to protect your interest.
Steps may include:
a) Lodging a home rights notice if the property is the former matrimonial home and is held in the name of your spouse only, which will have the title effect of formally notifying any potential purchasers of your beneficial interests.
b) Severing the joint tenancy – to ensure that you can both leave your respective shares in the property to who you wish (rather than each other).
At the start of your separation journey, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, but here at Stowe Family Law we have a team of specialists on hand to help. Please get in contact for further information and to see how we can help you.