What Is a Financial Order in Divorce UK

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Divorce is a challenging phase that involves many complex decisions, including financial matters. A key part of finalising a divorce in the UK involves determining the financial settlement between the parties. This crucial settlement defines how assets, debts, pensions, and other financial resources are shared or assigned.

A financial order legally binds these agreements, confirming that both parties stick to the terms established by the agreement. This article explains a financial order, how it functions within the divorce process, why it matters, and more.

Understanding Financial Order in Divorce

A financial order is a crucial legal document in a UK divorce, detailing how assets, debts, and other financial resources are divided between the two parties. Essentially, the official agreement specifies who gets what after a marriage ends. This order ensures that both individuals abide by the agreed financial terms.

If both parties agree on splitting their finances, they can draft a financial consent order jointly. This type of financial order is mutually agreed upon and then submitted to a court for approval, which makes it legally binding.

However, if the spouses cannot agree, the matter may go to court, and a judge will decide and issue a financial order based on fairness and the case’s specifics. In such cases, it may be beneficial to reach out to UK divorce experts for guidance and support.

For divorcing couples, it’s important to acknowledge that the final order or decree absolute legally ends the marriage, but it doesn’t automatically sever all financial ties between the divorced individuals.

A financial order from the court is necessary to finalise the financial aspects and prevent future claims. This step ensures both parties can move forward with financial independence and certainty.

What Assets Are Considered in a Financial Order?

A financial order addresses the division of various assets earned during the marriage. These include:

  1. Pension: A financial order can arrange for pensions to be split in several ways, such as directly sharing the pension (where a percentage of one party’s pension is transferred to the other) or offsetting the value against other assets. 
  2. Family Home: The financial order details how real estate, such as the family home and any other properties owned by the couple, will be handled. The agreement might dictate that the property be sold and the proceeds divided, or it may grant ownership to one of the parties, depending on what is deemed fair in the circumstances.
  3. Debts and Liabilities: Just like money and property, any debts accumulated during the union, such as loans or credit card balances, must be addressed. The financial order will specify who is responsible for paying off each debt, helping prevent future financial disputes.
  4. Savings and Investments: Any jointly held savings accounts, stocks, bonds, or other investment assets are also divided as part of the financial order. The specifics of how these are shared should ensure that both individuals maintain financial security post-divorce.
  5. Maintenance Payments The order may include arrangements for ongoing financial support, known as maintenance payments. This can involve spousal support, which provides financial help to a lower-earning or non-earning spouse, and child support, which covers the costs associated with raising children from the marriage. The terms will detail the amount and duration of these payments.

Types of Financial Orders the Court Can Make

In UK divorce proceedings, the court has the authority to issue various types of financial orders, each tailored to the specific circumstances and needs of the divorcing couple. Understanding the different types of financial orders can help individuals know what to expect during the legal process.

Consent Orders

If both parties settle on splitting their assets and finances, they can formalise this agreement into a Consent Order. This type of order requires approval from the court to ensure fairness and legality, particularly in complex financial situations. Once approved, a Consent Order is binding and enforceable, providing a clear framework for the division of assets.

Property Adjustment Orders

These orders are issued to redistribute property ownership between the divorcing parties. They might dictate that one spouse retains the family home while the other receives alternative assets or compensation. Property Adjustment Orders ensure that property division is handled equitably, considering each party’s needs and contributions.

Lump Sum Orders

A Lump Sum Order requires one party to pay the other a specified amount in a single payment. This type of order is often used to equalise the financial division when dividing physical assets evenly is impractical or undesirable. It provides a clear, immediate financial settlement between the parties.

Periodical Payments

Commonly referred to as maintenance payments, these orders require one party to provide ongoing financial support to the other. This is typically spousal maintenance and is meant to assist a less well-off spouse in maintaining a decent level of life following the divorce.

Pension Sharing Orders

Pension assets can represent significant value and are often critical in divorce settlements. A Pension Sharing Order dictates how the pension pot is to be split between the ex-partners. For example, a portion of one spouse’s pension could be transferred into a separate scheme for the other spouse, securing future income.

Clean Break Orders

A Clean Break Order completely severs the financial ties between the parties, which is ideal for couples without ongoing financial dependencies. After the assets are divided as per the order, neither party has any further claim on the other’s finances or assets.

This type of order is beneficial for those who want to permanently conclude financial dealings with one another and gain financial independence.

Each type of financial order serves a unique purpose, addressing different aspects of financial settlements in a divorce. Understanding these options is vital for divorcing parties to make informed decisions about their financial futures.

When To Apply For a Financial Order

Determining the right time to apply for a financial order during the divorce or dissolution process is crucial, as timing can significantly impact the efficiency and outcome of the financial settlement. Here’s a guide on when to consider applying for a financial order:

  1. During Divorce Proceedings: You can apply for a financial order as soon as you start the divorce or dissolution proceedings. Initiating this process early can help ensure that financial matters are considered concurrently as the divorce progresses, potentially simplifying the overall process.
  2. After the Conditional Order or Decree Nisi: It’s typically advisable to apply for a financial order after receiving the conditional order (in the case of dissolution) or the decree nisi (in a divorce). The court is generally unable to make a financial order before this stage, as the conditional order or decree nisi indicates that the court has principally agreed to the divorce but is awaiting a final period before granting the decree absolute.
  3. Before the Final Order or Decree Absolute Ideally, you should apply for a financial order before obtaining the final order or decree absolute. Applying for a financial order after the decree absolute can complicate matters, especially regarding pensions. For example, once the decree absolute is issued, any joint financial privileges such as pension benefits might be lost, potentially leading to financial disadvantages.

While you can apply for a financial order at any time after the conditional order or decree nisi, doing so before the decree absolute is generally more advantageous. This allows the financial settlement to be finalised and potentially enforced simultaneously as the divorce is concluded.

Related: The Benefits of Mediation in Divorce Cases in the UK

It’s vital to note that the financial order only takes effect after the decree absolute or final order is granted. This finalization formally ends the marriage and activates the terms outlined in the financial order, including the division of assets and property and any maintenance payments stipulated.

How To Apply

To make an application for a financial order, you need to fill out Form A on the Home Office website. Form A is crucial as it starts the process for the court to consider your case. Once done, the form should be sent to your local financial remedy court. 

It’s important to keep a copy of the form for your records. After the initial submission, if additional documents are required or if the court requests further details, they should be sent to the HMCTS Financial Remedy at PO Box 12746, Harlow, CM20 9QZ.

Given the complexities and legal nuances of applying for a financial order, many choose to hire a legal adviser expert in family law. They can provide valuable guidance throughout the application process, ensure all paperwork is correctly filled out and submitted, and help represent your financial interests effectively in court.

How Do I Enforce a Financial Order?

Enforcing a financial order is critical if one party fails to comply with the terms. On such occasions, seeking legal guidance is recommended to pick the proper course of action. 

Enforceable terms within a financial order are typically those that have been explicitly ‘Ordered’ by the court. These include obligations to make payments or to transfer ownership of property. The enforcement method will vary based on the particulars of the case and the breach. 

Choosing an enforcement strategy that will be most effective in compliance or recovering owed assets is important.

If the parties’ financial circumstances change, it may be possible to vary the order. Although terms related to lump sum payments or property transfers are generally fixed and cannot be altered once decided, provisions concerning maintenance or periodic payments can be varied.

See also: How Long Do You Have to Be Separated Before Divorce Is Automatic UK

If circumstances significantly change, either party can apply to the court to have these terms modified. This application for a variation must be submitted to the court, outlining the reasons for the request and providing evidence of the changed circumstances.

It is essential to remember that while applying for a variation or enforcement of a financial order, you may need to provide detailed financial information to support your claim or defence. This process might involve demonstrating a significant change in financial status or the other party’s failure to comply with the financial agreement.

Let Our Family Lawyers Help You

Dealing with the financial elements of a divorce can be difficult and overwhelming. Our skilled family lawyers are here to provide the guidance and support you need, from applying for a financial order to enforcing or modifying its terms. 

Safeguard your financial welfare and secure a fair settlement by getting the professional legal assistance you deserve. Contact us today to ensure your divorce proceedings are managed with care and precision.

FAQs

To get a financial order, you must apply through the court handling your divorce. This typically involves submitting a Form A application detailing your financial circumstances and desired arrangements. Obtaining this order alongside your divorce is essential to legally settle all financial ties.

A financial consent order should include all agreements regarding asset division, debt responsibility, spousal support, and other financial arrangements. It becomes legally binding once the court approves, ensuring both parties adhere to the agreed terms without future disputes.

Once a decree absolute is issued, ending your marriage legally, you can still make a financial claim if no final financial order is in place. However, it’s crucial to address financial matters before the decree absolute, as some rights might be lost after the decree absolute.

The duration to obtain a financial order can vary, depending on whether it is contested and how quickly an agreement can be reached. The procedure can require anywhere from 3 to 4 weeks.

Once a financial consent order is approved, it is binding. Generally, it cannot be changed unless significant changes in circumstances or something critical was overlooked during the drafting.

Ask our Expert Legal Team

At Gulbenkian Andonian, we pride ourselves on “Excellence, Experience and Efficiency”. With over 35 years of experience on your side, our team of London based lawyers and solicitors have a wealth of experience advising individuals, families and businesses of all sizes to find clarity on UK law.

Call us on +44 (0) 207 269 9590 or fill out the form below. We usually reply within a few hours.

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