Getting a good divorce financial settlement and keepng the costs down

Getting a good divorce financial settlement doesn’t have to mean embarking on expensive and destructive court proceedings.

What is a good divorce settlement?

This is an obvious question.

Is a good divorce financial settlement one where one of the couples needs are met to the detriment of the other? Is a good divorce financial one that is obviously unfair to one of the parties?

But the law is clear. The settlement has to be fair. The reasonable needs of the parties (with minor children being the first consideration) need to be met. Therefore in a legal sense, the settlement cannot be unfair. The Court l not make unreasonable orders. Where there is insufficient to meet the reasonable needs of all now, the Court will look at long term fairness, for example by ordering a future payment (for example, protected by a charge on a house, the payment payable when the couples children have finished their education) or through how it adjusts pensions.

Sometimes the Court will (reluctantly) approve an agreement which is weighted more to one than the other. If this happens, then the Court will need to be satisfied that the party receiving the worst of the settlement is giving full and informed consent. (And that the needs of minor children are being met).

A Good divorce financial settlement is…

We would argue that a good divorce financial settlement is one that is fair and where the person feeling that it is good has met or exceeded their expectations, or has achieved fairness in the face of the other failing to achieve what is unreasonable.

A good settlement can also be one achieved in a reasonable way, where the couple have worked together to achieve as many win/wins as possible. It is often possible for both to achieve their primary objective (eg preserving the house or preserving pension rights) if the couple recognise what the other wants and work constructively together to help both to achieve compatible goals.

Barriers to achieving a good divorce financial settlement

Barriers to achieving win/wins are as follows;

  • Failure to provide financial disclosure
  • Failure to understand the needs of the other
  • Losing child focus
  • Allowing emotion to take you to seek to punish the other within the settlement
  • Being completely unrealistic about what is achievable/fair
  • Failing to accept the need for expert reports (often about pension values).
  • Rejecting sensible negotiation
  • General obstruction, leading to significant costs.
  • Delay in trying to sort things out, so that an unfavourable status quo is established.
  • Failure to engage in a constructive agenda

Exhaustion after protracted and expensive proceedings can come with a sense of vindication if the Court found in your favour, but it will often come with a sense of upset and sometimes bitterness that the they have been put through a fight.

A good divorce financial settlement can be achieved by…

A good divorce financial settlement can be achieved by:

  • Engaging in sensible negotiation
  • Provide full financial disclosure
  • Adopting reasonable positions if the case proceeds to Court
  • Treating the process as trying to solve a joint problem. (Achieving win/wins).

In other words achieving a good divorce financial settlement is possible through negotiation and using Collaborative law or mediation.

Good legal advice is a necessity.

Definitive advice about what the fair options are, can only be given when there is full information. There is always a danger that a legal advisor will be too firm in their advice too early, or that the client will not hear the caveats to any advice.

There is also a danger that a client will listen too much to friends and family who wish to see the other party punished. There is also a danger that clients will see what others received (often in different situations) and allow this to feed into their expectations or attitudes.

If you want a good divorce financial settlement

If you want to achieve a good divorce financial settlement, then:

  • Get good advice at an early stage
  • Don’t expect your solicitor to give a definitive view
  • Be realistic
  • Be open
  • Be fair-minded
  • Be child focussed
  • Be open to negotiation
  • Be willing to get on with sorting things out.

Remember, the longer it takes, and the greater the struggle; the more expensive it will be.