“Breaking up is never easy” but sometimes it's the best you can do. The Abba hit “Knowing Me, Knowing You” was released in 1976. A lot has changed since then, but breaking up still remains a painful and potentially expensive matter.
The Basics of Divorce
There are three steps to getting a divorce.
Step one is to file a divorce petition. This currently carries a fee of £410.
If your spouse accepts the divorce petition, you can then apply for a decree nisi. This is essentially a statement which confirms that it is legally acceptable to end the marriage. If your spouse refuses to accept the petition and you wish to proceed with the divorce, you will need to attend a court hearing. You may require legal representation for this. The cost of this will vary depending on your needs.
If a decree nisi is granted, there is a 6-week cooling off period before you can apply for a decree absolute. The decree absolute formally and finally ends the marriage.
The Basics of Divorce Finance
It is perfectly possible and legal for two parties to divide their assets between themselves amicably upon divorce. Whether or not this is advisable depends on a number of factors.
Even if the divorce is amicable, it may still be worth both parties taking legal advice. Divorce can be a highly emotional situation. Having professional legal advice can help to keep both people focused on the practicalities.
There are basically four points to consider when looking at finances during a divorce.
1. The needs of children.
2. The immediate needs of the divorcing parties.
3. Longer-term maintenance.
4. The division of assets and debts
Where there are children in a marriage their needs will always be the highest priority. After this, both couples will need sufficient funds to meet their current needs. How much this will be will depend on individual circumstances.
It may also be considered appropriate for one party to pay another maintenance over a longer-term period. This is particularly likely if there are children. Even without children, however, the lower-income partner may be entitled to maintenance.
The division of assets and debts covers basically everything else – including pension savings.
How to Protect Your Finances in Divorce
Moving on financially after divorce is a bit like unscrambling eggs. Fortunately it can be done. You will need to disentangle yourself and your credit record from your spouse as quickly and effectively as possible.
One of your first priorities should therefore be to set up a current account in your own name. You should also aim to close all joint accounts as soon as you can. Separate lives mean separate bank accounts. If you have joint debt, then this also needs to be dealt with. In an ideal world, the debt would be repaid as part of the divorce process. For example, joint assets could be sold and the proceeds used to pay the debt.
In the real world, this may not be possible. For example if children are to stay in the family home, then the mortgage payments on it will still need to be met. Therefore the division of debts needs to be looked at just as carefully as the division of assets.
Divorce and Retirement Planning
Divorce can have a significant impact on your financial health in your later years.
First of all your existing retirement savings may well need to be split with your ex spouse.
Secondly you are each going to need to run your own home. This means that you may have the initial expenses of renting or buying a new property. It also means that bills which may have been split by two people now need to be paid individually.