When people separate they have to decide on the grounds of divorce. Was it someone’s fault? Is it necessary to apportion blame or perhaps just wait one year (if both parties agree) or two years (if they don’t) before applying for Divorce.
Discussions have to be had about what is best for the children even if the plan is to keep things flexible. Children of all ages need an element of certainty. They want to know what is happening and their parents have to decide how best to tell them. Sometimes arrangements have to be formal or they will break down. The children reside with one parent and the other has contact. Or maybe there is some kind of Joint Residence. Hopefully the parents can still talk to each other about what is best for their children although sometimes even that can prove difficult.
Once divorce and the welfare of the children have been considered there is still the financial situation to sort out. Often the negotiations about finances can have a big impact on the quality of divorce, particularly if it is not clear where the family are going to stay following separation. Relations can sour quickly if there is a perception that the financial settlement is one sided or unfair.
When some people separate they have nothing to argue about. Others have lots of assets with high values. For the average divorcing couple the two factors that will be uppermost in their minds are; what will happen to our house and what will happen to any pension there may be. Obviously there will be other assets and probably debt but these two assets often form the major part of any discussion.
The perceived relative importance of the family home or a pension can vary depending on the age and stage of the client.
For younger clients the importance of a pension may not seem as pressing or as relevant as what is to happen to the family home. Obviously a client’s first thought is where are they, and the children going to stay. The pension is seen more as something that is a long way off. (this may seem short sighted but is often the mindset)
For older clients pensions (and savings) are regarded far more seriously. If the end of working life is in sight then there will be a real concern that the state pension would not be enough and without some kind of pension provision it might be difficult to make ends meet.
The truth is that both are important and a family lawyer should help the client to achieve a balanced settlement which will not only deal with the immediate problems but will also look to the future and, if possible, protect the client’s medium and long term interests.
It is not a simple question of adding up all the assets and splitting them down the middle.
Different clients may have different priorities and the family lawyer should try and reflect this in the settlement.
Clients, who may still be stressed by the circumstances of the break up of the marriage, will not always be thinking clearly. They might only be focussing on the short term. The family lawyer should assist the client in looking at the bigger picture and the longer term.
Often, especially where there are numerous or valuable assets, the involvement of an Independent Financial Adviser who is used to advising divorce clients on financial matters, can be very beneficial.
The family lawyer and the IFA can work together to help the client to get the financial deal that suits their circumstances.