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Divorce Financial Settlement Guide – Who Gets What?

We know that negotiating and reaching a divorce settlement is often a complex and stressful process. Our team has put this guide together to help couples understand what to expect from the process, what you are entitled to and ultimately how to obtain one from the court.

Table Of Contents

    What Is a Divorce Financial Settlement?

    A divorce financial settlement is a legal agreement couples reach in divorce proceedings regarding the division of their joint assets. It lays out which spouse gets what regarding money, property, and possessions and what their financial responsibilities are once the marriage is over.

    After splitting up, a financial settlement divorce is the official way ex-spouses decide who gets what. It documents how you wish to share money, assets, and bills. A financial agreement essentially outlines who gets what after the marriage is over.

    There is no set formula or one-size-fits-all approach to dividing assets upon divorce. Every couple has different circumstances and sets of needs.

    In our experience, negotiating a divorce financial agreement can vary widely. It can go from relatively smooth and cooperative to drawn-out and contentious.

    The goal of the negotiation is to reach a proposed settlement that is acceptable to both parties and deemed fair by the court.

    What am I entitled to when I get divorced?

    Almost daily we receive phone calls asking ‘What is a wife entitled to in a divorce?’. It’s an almost impossible question to answer without knowing the specifics of your situation.

    Generally speaking, the immediate needs of any dependent children are the priority. Followed by the immediate housing needs of both parties.

    You should seek initial legal advice to ensure you receive a fair share of all assets. The biggest mistake you can make is agreeing to a divorce agreement you don’t understand.

    Has your partner disclosed all his/her assets to you through financial disclosure? Are they hiding assets or offering you a lower settlement than is fair?

    You probably have many other questions. For example, should I prioritise immediate housing needs over long-term financial decisions? It’s the classic case of House vs Pension.

    Talking from a husband’s perspective, the questions we receive are often different. It can be more about wealth preservation.

    And no, you cannot divorce your wife and keep everything as some seem to believe. UK divorce law does not allow one person to take everything.

    Are you struggling to calculate who gets what in a divorce settlement? Use our divorce settlement calculator to get a customised report on divorce asset division.

    How does a Judge decide what is fair?

    What does a Judge take into account when they make a decision is a question we’re often asked.

    The court uses guidelines set out in Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 to calculate fairness in financial settlements.

    Unlike other guides you read, we haven’t copied and pasted the legislation from the Act. We have written it in a way that is simpler to understand for people who are new to divorce.

    Here are the factors considered by the Courts in respect of a financial settlement divorce:

    1. Financial Situation: The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources that each of the parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future.
    2. Financial Needs and Responsibilities: It considers what each person needs to pay for and any financial obligations they have now or might have soon.
    3. Previous Lifestyle: The standard of living the family had before the divorce.
    4. Age and Duration of Marriage: The ages of each person and the duration of the marriage.
    5. Health: Considerations for any physical or mental health issues either party has.
    6. Contributions to the Family: The court looks at what each person did for the family. Contributions are not only monetary related, they can include taking care of the home or the family.
    7. Behaviour: If that conduct is such that it would in the opinion of the court be inequitable to disregard it.

    If you’re struggling to agree on terms or understand what’s fair, read the following guide. Fair examples of UK divorce settlement agreements.

    Four ways to negotiate a financial settlement on divorce

    1) Negotiate between yourselves

    This is the most straightforward approach where you and your ex-partner sit down and agree on the terms of your settlement without any outside assistance.

    This can be the least costly option and gives you full control over the outcome, but it requires a good level of communication and cooperation.

    2) Mediation:

    If negotiating directly is difficult, you can use a mediator. In mediation, a neutral third party facilitates discussions between you and your spouse to help reach a mutually acceptable agreement.

    The mediator doesn’t make decisions but assists in communication and problem-solving. Mediation can be less adversarial and costly compared to litigation, and it often promotes amicable resolutions.

    3) Collaborative Law:

    This is where each person hires their own lawyer but instead of conducting negotiations between you and your partner through letters or phone calls, you meet together to work things out face-to-face.

    4) Solicitor-Led Negotiation:

    You can have solicitors negotiate on your behalf. This can be beneficial if the relationship between you and your partner is particularly acrimonious or if your financial affairs are complex.

    What can I expect from a typical UK divorce settlement?

    A 50/50 split between the parties is always the starting point, but it’s rarely the final asset split.

    Divorce entitlements vary and will depend on your specific circumstances and financial position. In a divorce settlement you might get things like:

    • A share of your partner’s pension
    • A lump sum payment from joint savings, investments, or any other income-generating assets
    • A lump sum payment from the sale of the matrimonial home
    • Regular maintenance payments to help with children or living expenses

    We have helped over 40,000 couples obtain a divorce settlement, but there is a common misconception that all divorce settlements result in a 50/50 split.

    The court does not discriminate against the homemaker vs the breadwinner.

    This means that a partner who left work to raise the children might be awarded half of any joint assets, a share of their partner’s pension entitlements, and spousal maintenance for some time.

    Can I get a divorce without a financial settlement?

    Yes, you can get a divorce without having the court approve a financial agreement. In theory, you can apply for a divorce in your 20’s and start financial settlement proceedings in your 50’s unless you re-marry.

    Whilst it is entirely possible to get a divorce or dissolve a civil partnership without reaching a financial agreement, it is generally not recommended by family law professionals.

    Most people are not aware that legally ending the marriage or civil partnership does not prevent either party from making financial claims in the future, even years after the divorce.

    Read more: The Dangers of Divorce Without a Divorce Settlement

    There have been high-profile cases where former spouses have returned to court after being divorced for over 20 years and being successful in receiving financial provisions because they didn’t get a financial order approved by the court.

    How are money and assets split in a divorce?

    Before looking at how money & assets may be split in a divorce settlement, you need to know the difference between assets.

    Matrimonial assets

    Assets you have built up or acquired during marriage are known as matrimonial assets.

    Matrimonial assets typically include:

    • Property (the family home)
    • Pensions
    • Savings
    • Debts

    These assets will always be added to the overall ‘pot’ and must be split fairly. Bear in mind that fair doesn’t necessarily mean 50/50 of everything.

    Non-matrimonial assets

    Non-matrimonial assets are financial assets acquired before getting married, for example.

    Assets that can be considered ‘non-matrimonial’ include:

    • Gifts
    • Personal belongings (vehicles, watches, furniture, etc)
    • Businesses
    • Property owned before marriage
    • Investments
    • Inheritance

    Non-matrimonial assets are usually treated differently from matrimonial assets, however, they aren’t necessarily excluded from a divorce settlement.

    For example, if an inheritance has been used during the marriage to purchase a car or house, this asset would now be classed as a marital asset.

    There are various ways of splitting your assets, such as lump-sum payments to one spouse, offsetting a pension against other assets of the same value, and agreements on maintenance payments for both a spouse and children.

    How does the court assess matrimonial vs non-matrimonial assets in a divorce?

    How do I apply for a financial settlement if there’s no agreement?

    Sometimes, even involving a mediator may not solve the issue.

    When negotiations are difficult, you and your ex-spouse have a complicated financial situation or your ex-partner refuses to even discuss finances, you may consider applying to the court to get a financial settlement.

    In certain circumstances, you may be better off applying to the court to make a financial agreement, for example;

    • If you or your partner own a business
    • If one party is financially dependent on the other
    • If you have depends (children)
    • If one party is against agreeing to a settlement
    • If one party has significantly more assets than the other

    In a nutshell, if both parties can’t reach an agreement, they need to go to court and have a judge issue them with a financial order.

    However, you need to show to the court that you have attended a mediation meeting (unless there has been domestic abuse or social services are involved in which case you can go straight to court).

    The deadlines for applying for a financial order are the same: before applying for the final legal document but after you’ve started the paperwork to divorce or end your civil partnership.

    To apply for a financial order to the court, you will need to send two copies of the form to the court dealing with your paperwork (but keep one copy for yourself).

    The application itself costs £255 and you may need to attend several court appointments and court hearings. This process could take anywhere between 6 and 12 months.

    Have Questions About Divorce Financial Settlements? Speak to our friendly team on Live Chat for quick and reliable answers or Request a Free Callback at a convenient time.👋 Chat with us now!

    Is there a time limit after divorce on reaching a financial settlement?

    There is no specific time limit set by law for reaching a financial settlement after divorce.

    The timeframe for reaching a settlement can vary depending on the complexity of the case and the willingness of both parties to cooperate and negotiate.

    It’s important to know also that there is no time limit on financial claims after divorce either, which is why it’s vital to ask the court to approve a divorce financial order alongside your divorce proceedings.

    If the court hasn’t dismissed a spouse’s financial claims by approving a court order, either party can make a claim in the future, providing that they have not remarried.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How does a Judge calculate what’s a fair settlement?

    The court uses a range of factors, outlined in Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. Here are the factors a Judge will consider when deciding what’s fair:

    1. The duration of the marriage (See how the length of marriage affects divorce settlements)
    2. The age of each party to the marriage
    3. The financial needs, obligations, and responsibilities of both parties
    4. The contributions which each of the parties has made to the marriage
    5. The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage

    The court will ultimately look at the income, assets, debts, and liabilities of both parties to assess whether the agreement you’ve reached is fair. If you believe the divorce settlement is unfair, you can appeal it by applying to the court.

    Read More: The factors the court considers for a financial order

    How do I prepare myself for a divorce settlement?

    The first thing you need to do before attempting to reach a financial agreement is to ensure the day-to-day finances are sorted out. Ensuring you can continue to pay your bills is vital, before deciding who gets what.

    To avoid any agreement becoming unfair, you want to build up an overall picture of your current financial position as a couple and work out:

    • What you have to split (income and assets)
    • How much you each owe (debts and liabilities)
    • Options for how everything could be split

    This will give you a good basis to negotiate a fair divorce settlement. Both parties are required to give full financial disclosure. Parties should not hide assets from their ex-partner in an attempt to get a ‘better’ settlement.

    It’s common for married couples to share bank accounts, especially when they have children together.

    If you have joint bank accounts, credit cards, or loans, you should contact your providers to set up new separate accounts. You will need to update your employers and any other organisations you receive money from.

    Again, you cannot go and transfer assets out of joint bank accounts to avoid paying your ex-husband or wife a fair share of all held matrimonial assets.

    Can an ex-husband, wife, or civil partner claim for property after a divorce?

    Technically, a spouse can claim against any property, income, or pensions you have acquired post-divorce if you haven’t ended the financial ties that marriage brings by obtaining a financial order from the court. There is no time limit on making financial claims against an ex-husband or wife if a court has not severed financial ties.

    Read More: Decree Absolute Ends Marriage, But Not Financial Commitments

    When should I agree to a financial settlement and why?

    Once you know that divorce is the inevitable option, it’s important to discuss how any held money or assets are to be divided.

    Solicitors will usually advise their clients to sort out their finances before applying for the final order (‘decree absolute’).

    This could be for many reasons, but it’s usually for one of the following two reasons;

    1.If you can arrange your finances at the same time as going through a divorce, you can have a ‘clean break’ following your divorce. Both parties can move on with their lives, knowing that neither party can not make any future claims.

    2.Sometimes, if you deal with your divorce first without sorting out your finances, it can impair your entitlement to certain assets such as pensions. Pensions can only be transferred to a spouse, which you would no longer be, so it’s worth speaking with your solicitor first before applying for the decree absolute.

    If you have had a short marriage and there are no joint assets together (property, savings, pensions for example), it’s still important to obtain a clean break order from your spouse to end all financial ties.

    How Divorce-Online Can Help

    Firstly, if you haven’t found the answers to your questions, we have answered 15 FAQs on financial settlements, which could hold the answer you’re looking for.

    Reaching a divorce settlement is never easy. Legal advice for couples with wealth is always advised.

    If you’re handling your own divorce, or plan to in the near future, you should consider our online consent order services.

    Reaching an agreement is part of the process but without having it professionally drawn up into a legal document, it, unfortunately, means nothing.

    Please do not attempt to do this yourself. If you’re worried about legal costs, our low-cost services from £449 can help you save thousands in legal fees whilst providing you with certainty.

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    Have Questions About Your Finances?

    Going through a divorce for the first time can be daunting and stressful. Request a free consultation from our friendly team to put your mind at ease by asking the important questions you need answers to.
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    This post was written by Mark Keenan. Managing Director of Online Legal Services Ltd. Mark has been writing about divorce and related subjects for over 20+ years and is an expert in legal marketing.

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