Matrimonial / Family Law

Q. I am about to separate from my spouse – what do I need to consider?  
 
A.You need to consider the following:- 
 
1.Where am I going to live?  
2.Should I transfer my income to a separate Bank Account rather than pay into a Joint Bank Account? 
3. Should I transfer a share of our joint savings to my sole name? 
4. Can I afford to rent alternative accommodation and continue to pay a share of the mortgage on the matrimonial home?  
5. What would my additional outgoings be e.g. payment of child maintenance, spousal maintenance in addition to rent on alternative accommodation? 
6. Should we go for Family Mediation or Counselling?  
 
Q. What legal proceedings are available to me? 
 
A. There are a raft of legal proceedings available to you under different legislation.  Some common examples (but not a full list) are as follows:- 
 
A. Application for Spousal Maintenance in the Magistrates Court. 
B. Application for Non Molestation Order in the Magistrates Court. 
C. Application for an Occupation Order in the Magistrates Court. 
D. Issue of Divorce Proceedings in the County Court or High Court.  
E. Issue of Ancillary Relief Proceedings in the County Court or High Court in respect of the division of the matrimonial assets.  
 
Q. What is the rate for Child Maintenance?  
 
A. Go to the following Website – www.nidirect.gov.uk/calculate-child-maintenance and this will give you an online calculator to work out how much Child Maintenance you will be liable to pay if you are the absent parent or telephone 0800 028 7439.  
 
Q. What is the Website Address for Child Support Agency? 
 
 
Q. How can I reach a financial settlement with my ex-spouse? 
 
A. It is necessary for each spouse to have independent legal advice i.e. to instruct a separate Solicitor to act on your behalf.  In addition you need to make full financial disclosure of all your assets to include your Bank Accounts, Savings, Investments, Life Insurance Policies, Stocks, Shares, Property, Company Directorships and all assets in your sole name or joint names with any party whatsoever.  
 
Once financial disclosure has been made then the Solicitors can try to negotiate a settlement between the Husband and Wife.  If it is not possible to settle between Solicitors Barristers can be briefed to try and negotiate a settlement and if settlement still cannot be reached at that stage then it is possible to issue Ancillary Relief Proceedings in the Court to ask a Judge to decide on the division of the matrimonial assets.  
 
Q. What assets are to be divided between us?  
 
A. All assets in your sole name or joint names with any other person are available to be divided between the Husband and Wife.  This includes (without being exhaustive list):- 
 
A. The matrimonial home. 
B. Your Savings Accounts. 
C. Endowment Policies. 
D. Life Insurance Polices. 
E. Stocks and Shares. 
F. Your Pension with your current Employer and any previous Employer.
G. Any holiday home you may own. 
H. Any other assets you have worldwide.    
 
Q. What about our Pensions? 
 
A. You need to take professional legal advice and also possibly obtain an Actuary Report in respect of your division of your Pension between the Husband and Wife.  The reason is it is common for a Court to Order a “Pension Sharing Order” in respect of your Pension.  This means a share of one spouses Pension will be transferred to the other spouse to try and achieve equality of Pensions between the spouses.  
 
This can be a complicated area and professional specialised advice is necessary.  
 
Q. What about the Matrimonial Home? 
 
A. The starting point for the division of any assets between the spouses is equality i.e. a 50/50 split.  However the Courts may favour the spouse who is re-housing the children of the marriage who are still minors and grant a slightly higher percentage share in respect of the matrimonial home to that spouse.  
 
Q. Am I entitled to Spousal Maintenance? 
 
A. This depends if there is a disparity between the income of the Husband and Wife.  If the Husband is the higher income earner then the Court may grant Spousal Maintenance in favour of the Wife.  Again this is a complex area and specialised legal advice is suggested.  
 
Q. What is a Separation Agreement? 
 
A. If you both enter into a financial agreement this is incorporated into a Contract known as a “Separation Agreement”.  It basically means both of you have made full financial disclosure and have agreed on the division of the split of the matrimonial assets.  The Agreement sets out quite clearly how those assets are to be divided and generally the legal costs are borne by each party in respect of their own costs.  
 
Q. How quickly can I get Divorced?  
 
A. The grounds for are as follows:- 
A. Two Year Separation and one party Petitions for Divorce and the other party consents.  
B. Five Year Separation with no consent required. 
C. Unreasonable behaviour. Adultery. 
D. Desertion. It depends on which ground of Divorce you are going under as to how quickly the Divorce can proceed.  If it is the first ground and both of you are in agreement then a Divorce Petition could be issued very quickly and the Divorce listed in Court within say a three month period.  At Court you are granted the Decree Nisi and after six weeks you can apply for the Decree Absolute.  
 
If it is another ground is being used in your Divorce Petition the Divorce could be a lot slower.  
 
Q. What is Ancillary Relief Proceedings?  
 
A. These are legal proceedings ancillary to the Divorce asking the Court to grant relief i.e. a decision on how to divide up the matrimonial assets between the spouses.  It is conducted by written Affidavit for each person setting out their current income and assets.  The Court provides ability for each party to provide full financial disclosure and once this process has been completed the Court allows for a “Financial Dispute Resolution” Hearing in front of a Master of the Matrimonial Court to give an indication if this went to full Hearing how the Court is likely to decide it.  If the parties decide to follow the Master’s guidance at the Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing a Separation Agreement can be drawn up and this brings a conclusion to the matter.  
 
If the parties do not agree with the decision of the Master at the Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing the parties can then go for a full Hearing in front of another Master of the Matrimonial Court to rule judicially on the division of the matrimonial assets.
 

Contact

Anne Copeland - anne.copeland@diamondheron.com or tel 028 9040 8227

Anna Watters - anna.watters@diamondheron.com or tel 028 9040 8223