Article By Anna Sutcliffe, Jones Myers Senior Family Law Executive
Deciding on crucial factors that will change your life forever is challenging at any time – particularly in today’s turbulent climate following the covid-19 pandemic.
Physically separating is one thing – but when is the best time to divide your assets?
Questions around your financial settlement are not resolved until a final order from the Court sets out your obligations and what you will keep. In most cases, it ends any claims you might have against each other.
But what happens if your assets increase or decrease in value after you have separated but while you are still attempting to reach a settlement? Any decisions on “who gets what” will not be based on their value at the time of the separation but on the current value.
One possibility is to agree a two part division with liquid assets such as savings dealt with at the time of settlement and illiquid assets such as property and pensions agreed when the market is more stable.
Whilst there may be too many unknown factors for some couples; others may decide the economic uncertainty is the right backdrop against which to separate because financial awards might be lower than in “normal” economic times.
However, even if you were to decide today, any financial settlement may not be based on the value of the assets as they currently stand, in particular if a lengthy court process is involved.
The economic landscape may be different by the time you settle
Fully contested financial proceedings are likely to take around 9-12 months – when the economic landscape will look different from now – to get to a final hearing.
Couples are also advised to consider the following alternative dispute resolutions which avoid going to court.
Mediation can help resolve differences and find solutions to move forward positively. An impartial third party, “mediator” helps them to discuss issues confidentially to achieve workable agreements which can be reached more swiftly and cheaply than by using the court process or in solicitors’ correspondence.
Collaborative Law also avoids Court proceedings and other adversarial approaches to settlement. A “no court” agreement signed at the outset demonstrates a shared commitment to finding an agreed resolution. This process can be particularly beneficial in higher value or complex situations.
In family Arbitration, couples appoint an arbitrator who makes decisions for them, enabling them to resolve disputes in a more flexible and less formal setting.
They also have the same Arbitrator through the process and the reassurance that their Arbitrator is an expert in financial remedy proceedings. This isn’t always the case with a Court where Judges may have backgrounds in other areas of law.
If successful, these alternative dispute resolution processes could be resolved within 4-6 months.
About Anna Sutcliffe
Anna’s extensive expertise has seen her work exclusively in family law since 1995. She specialises in divorce and separation and related financial arrangements along with cohabitation disputes and private law children disputes. www.jonesmyers.co.uk