Whether you are married, in a civil partnership or in a long term relationship there can often be financial issues which need to be resolved to secure your financial stability and that of any children in the future. Some individuals are able to reach an agreement between themselves which they just wish to be formalised. Others are able to reach an agreement with assistance from solicitors or by attending mediation. Unfortunately there are some circumstances when individuals are unable to reach an agreement on how to divide their assets or decide on what financial support they should give each other in the future. In these circumstances it may be necessary to issue court proceedings in order for a Court to decide on what it believes is an equitable financial settlement.

Whether you want to have a discussion about the legal ramifications of a financial settlement, have assistance in discussions about finances or in relation to Court proceedings, we are able to help you. We are also able to offer mediation if you and your spouse or partner are interested in attending mediation.

How to settle disputes

Save for certain exceptions, it is now compulsory for couples who intend to apply to Court for orders relating to children to attend a MIAM, or Mediation Intake Assessment Meeting, to consider mediation before making an application to Court. This is to encourage couples to resolve matters through mediation without going to Court. For many couples this is a more amicable, less contentious, and more cost effective way of resolving disputes.

Further options to settle disputes can include:

Discussion

It is not always necessary to attend Court, mediation or arbitration to resolve financial matters. When parties have remained amicable following the breakdown of their relationship they are sometimes able to reach an agreement regarding many issues directly between them. We are able to assist you with those discussions to reach a full and final settlement, be it either in advising you on the options available to you or in discussing matters with your spouse or partner’s solicitors.

Voluntary Disclosure

Prior to the issue of court proceedings both parties can agree to provide full disclosure of their income, assets and outgoings. This is to ensure that you both have a complete breakdown of each other’s financial circumstances before entering into any future settlement. It is a requirement that for there to be a valid agreement or order following a divorce or dissolution that both parties make full and frank disclosure of their respective income and capital assets.

Once full financial disclosure has been provided we can advise our client on proposals for settlement. Any agreement reached can then be incorporated into a court order which will be binding upon the parties.

Mediation

If appropriate a referral can be made for both parties to see an independent mediator who will assist the parties in trying to find a solution to the issues which are in dispute. Solicitors are not present during mediation but we will provide advice as and when needed. Whether you wish to instruct us to deal with all financial issues arising from your separation or solely wish to receive advice on discussions you have had at mediation, we are happy to help. The amount of sessions of mediation will vary according to each individual case. The mediator can assess if the parties qualify for Legal Aid. If they do not then a fee may be payable. If an agreement is reached in mediation then the total costs may be cheaper than the legal process involved if court proceedings were issued. Any agreement reached in mediation can be incorporated into a court order.

Collaborative Process

Both parties will meet with their lawyers to try and settle their case in a series of meetings. The aim of the process is for it to be open and transparent. If an agreement is not reached during the collaborative process then both parties will have to instruct new lawyers to start their case again. Other experts such as financial advisers can be involved in the collaborative meetings.

Arbitration

Arbitration is an alternative to the court process in that the parties are able to elect an arbitrator who will make the final decision regarding the outcome of the issues in dispute. At the outset the parties will have to agree to be bound by the arbitrator’s decision, which once made, will be incorporated into a court order. Solicitors are generally fully involved in the process and will attend the arbitration and represent their clients there.

Consent Order

If you have reached a financial settlement in relation to a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership then that agreement can be formalised in a document which is called a consent order. This is a legal document that sets out the terms of your settlement.

We can prepare a consent order for you or advise you on a consent order that has been proposed to you. We will do this as part of our instructions if we are instructed in relation to financial matters generally, but if you would like us solely to prepare a consent order and your application to Court then please do contact us and we can discuss that with you.

Litigation

If an agreement is not reached through the parties attending a form of mediation or by attempting voluntary disclosure then either party can invoke the court’s jurisdiction. This involves issuing an application for financial relief, formerly known as ancillary relief.

The procedure can be complicated but the benefit of issuing proceedings is that the court will provide a timetable setting out directions which both parties must comply with, in relation to the disclosure of evidence. There is a fee to issue the application for financial relief. Generally there will be three hearings prior to a final order being made. The initial hearing is a procedural step after which directions will be made for the parties to file further evidence if required. At the second hearing, also referred to as the FDR (Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing), the District Judge can give an indication of the likely outcome of the case. Many cases settle after an indication has been provided by the District Judge but if they do not then the case will proceed to trial.

For further information, or to advise of your own circumstances, speak with one of our family law team

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