In the UK, the outcomes of divorce cases are decided by the courts and it is indeed the court who will decide how your assets are divided. This can be frustrating and annoying for many people who are going through a stressful situation such as a divorce, and it is worth knowing that there is no set method that the court uses to make its decisions on this front.
Even though there is no set method used to divide assets in a divorce case, a judge will assess a number of different points before making a final decision. Top family solicitors UK state that the points that the judge will assess are listed in Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act. They state:
- the income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each of the parties to the marriage has, or is likely to have in the foreseeable future. This includes in the case of earning capacity, any increase in that capacity which it would, in the opinion of the court, be reasonable to expect a party to the marriage to take steps to acquire
- the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each of the parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future
- the standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage
- the age of each party to the marriage and the duration of the marriage
- any physical or mental disability of either of the parties to the marriage
- the contributions which each of the parties has made or is likely in the foreseeable future to make to the welfare of the family, including any contribution by looking after the home or caring for the family
- the conduct of each of the parties, whatever the nature of the conduct and whether it occurred during the marriage or after the separation of the parties or (as the case may be), dissolution or annulment of the marriage, if that conduct is such that it would in the opinion of the court be inequitable to disregard it
- in the case of proceedings for divorce or nullity of marriage, the value to each of the parties to the marriage of any benefit (for example, a pension) which, by reason of the dissolution or annulment of the marriage, that party will lose the chance of acquiring
- in cases where there are young children, the Court’s first concern will always be the welfare of those young children and how their needs will be met. In reality, the decisive factor in the majority of cases is the reasonable needs of the parties and the children of the family.
In the UK, family assets during a divorce are not divided totally equally and there are no specific rules of entitlements, for example, which state that a mother will receive a larger percentage of the assets because she needs to look after the children. This makes divorces in the UK especially difficult because, in many situations where a husband or wife ask a court to make a decision of financial settlement, the court can, in fact, make a range of decisions which are called the “band of reasonableness”. An example of this would be when a lawyer or solicitor state during a negotiation the desired criteria for a financial settlement is, for example, “scenario 1”, that is in-fact 1 of a number of scenarios (Scenarios 1-4) that can be decided upon in court. The idea behind this is to allow more choice with regards to negotiating positions for each spouse to allow a smoother settlement process, however, if a spouse is fixated on achieving one particular scenario then the case can be referred to a financial court and can continue resulting in a final hearing.
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