I spent some time with a friend this morning who is also a family lawyer. We were discussing financial settlements. She, like many family lawyers, tries her hardest to help her clients to agree how to divide their finances between them, without using the courts. Why would we think it is important to avoid the courts? Couples only have one pot of money to pay for all the costs of the divorce and the settlement.
I’m going to take them for every penny
I’m sure most people reading this have heard others say this when they are getting divorced. You may be feeling it yourself. Of course, in the initial stage of separation, it can be the first response. I want to try to dissuade anyone feeling this from seeing it through.
What I am about to say may feel easy for someone on the outside to say. Firstly, the anger will subside over time. It can be worth giving yourself some time, perhaps seek some help from a counsellor or divorce coach. Secondly, I heard a judge say that if anyone leaves a divorce happy, the settlement is probably the wrong one. Neither party is likely to be happy with the outcome. Finally, there is only one pot of money; your marital assets.
Your marital assets may be relatively simple, such as a pension each, a house and a bit in savings. They may be more complex and involve overseas assets, a business, final salary pension. However, the costs of divorcing come from one pot; whether these costs are to a single lawyer, a mediator or 2 barristers, a court, 2 solicitors. The costs of divorce may be under £1,000. However, if there are court proceedings, they can run into tens of thousands. All of these costs have to come from the one pot. The result of this can be that after “taking them for every penny,” you may receive less than if you had settled out of court without the associated costs.
My ex isn’t being reasonable
There are cases where my friend, and other lawyers like her, have no option but to go to court with their client. This may be because your ex is not accepting the offers that have been put on the table. It may be because the offers made to you are unacceptable. Your family lawyer is there to advise you to ensure that the offer you accept is reasonable. I am certainly not saying that you should give everything away to avoid court. What I am saying is that you should consider the offers made, with your lawyer, and take advice on how reasonable they are. If you don’t the one pot of money will quickly be depleted.
How do I know what the offer means to me?
One way of understanding the impact of your financial settlement on your future life is to work with a financial planner. They can help you to see how the offer on the table will impact on your future life. No two people are the same in terms of their lifestyle. For example, you may be offered a total settlement of £2,000,000. That may sound like a lot of money but if your lifestyle costs you £500,000 per year, this money will not last long. Everyone also has different hopes, dreams and aspirations for their future life so it is important to go through this process yourself with a planner who will work with you.
If you would like help to understand the offer being made to you, please contact me using the details below. You may also find “Beginning to plan your finances after separation” useful.
Tamsin Caine is a Chartered Financial Planner at Smart Divorce. She specialises in working with separating or divorcing clients to help them to understand how to divide their finances to move forward with their lives. If you would like to speak to Tamsin or find out more about how she can help, email her at Tamsin@smartdivorce.co.uk any time or telephone 07975 922766 during office hours.