Things to consider when exiting a marriage or relationship…
We all know or can imagine that going through a divorce is a difficult process for anybody, but without having gone through it, it is hard to know exactly what you need to do in order to protect yourself, your finances, your assets and your future. Head of Family Department at WLS Solicitors, Wayne Phillips, shares some advice. When you marry, you enter into a partnership that is legally binding. That legal partnership can only be brought to an end by death or by an Order of the Court, known as a divorce. Married couples are protected by law to ensure the Court can distribute assets, if the parties cannot agree distribution between themselves.
There are no such laws in place for cohabitees. A cohabitee would need to look to representatives in particular areas of the law to help protect their assets - for example, if the asset in dispute is the house, then the cohabitee would need to seek advice in property law.
In respect of managing finances in the case of divorce or separation, there are a number of ways individuals can obtain maintenance or financial support to help them through a legal process. It is always advisable to seek legal advice when a relationship breaks down, but particularly if there is any dispute with regards to finances. Separating couples must carefully consider the pot available for distribution when a relationship breaks down. It should be determined early what the assets are that have formed part of the partnership that has broken down; and should subsequently now be available for distribution. Some couples are very open about finances and both parties will know exactly what matrimonial assets there are and be privy to what their partner earns. Regardless of the way in which couples have conducted their financial affairs during their marriage, upon divorcing, as a rule, everything owned by both parties goes into the pot for distribution. This doesn’t just include assets owned jointly, such as the former matrimonial home, but also includes the parties’ pensions, business and even inheritance – though in some instances, inheritance can be ring fenced and excluded from the pot. As well as looking what goes into the pot, we need to look at what comes out of the pot and examine the debts of the marriage. A bone of contention can often be credit cards held solely in only one parties’ name. Generally speaking, the starting point is that credit cards are matrimonial debts and should be repaid out of the matrimonial assets. As a lawyer, I am often asked what will happen with the marital home. It is important that when any marriage comes to an end assets are not dealt with in insolation, that a full comprehensive picture of the assets, income and debts of the marriage is gathered before any advice can be given with regards to how the finances are to be determined. In addition to providing a full inventory of assets, it is equally important to maximise mutual assets. Regardless of which party I am instructed by I will always look at ways of maximising the income of both parties before I examine how that income can be distributed by way of maintenance. Finally, it is not unusual when a relationship breaks down for the process to become volatile. The law recognises this and there are various Orders that can be applied for to protect individuals, children and assets. In those situations, it is more important than ever to instruct a solicitor who has demonstrable expertise and the resources to act quickly. In summary, the most important thing for anyone who is divorcing to know is the telephone number of an excellent family law solicitor. At WLS Solicitors, we can provide confidential, no-obligation advice in order to help you move forward positively with the help you need. Call our team today on 01684 216777.
By Wayne Phillips, Head of Family Law at WLS Solicitors.