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The true cost of divorce proceedings – Financial considerations for separating spouses

When a couple decides to divorce, they are effectively severing a legal tie between them which involves a significant financial element.

A number of considerations come into play, including spousal support, child support, and the division of assets and debts.

It’s important for separating spouses or civil partners to understand all the financial issues they will need to consider and plan for during divorce proceedings in order to avoid prolonging the process.

Head of Mander Hadley’s Family Law Department, Stuart Daniel, addresses the concerns facing divorcing couples or civil partners when it comes to finances.

Support for children

Financial support for children shared by the couple is one of the most important considerations when preparing for a divorce.

Both parents have a legal obligation to support their child financially and the arrangement that sets out how this will be done is known as child maintenance.

If a child’s parents divorce and the child lives with one parent, both parents must have a child maintenance arrangement in order if the child is under 16, or under 20 and in full-time education.

Child maintenance typically covers essential costs such as food, clothing and certain educational expenses.

A child maintenance arrangement can either be put into place privately between both parents or through the Child Maintenance Service – particularly relevant to situations in which there is a dispute over parentage or the divorcing parents cannot agree.

How much is paid depends on how many children are involved, the income of the paying party, shared care and other costs which impact gross income.

Spousal support

In Stuart’s words: “Spousal maintenance is a fairly complex issue that aims to ensure that neither spouse faces undue financial hardship as a direct result of a divorce.

“While historically common for spousal support to last for the duration of either spouse’s life, there is now a presumption that there should be no ongoing maintenance or that, where maintenance is warranted, it should be for a defined period of time. Every case will be determined on its own merits and the key consideration is always that of the parties’ needs.”

Division of assets and debts

The division of marital assets and debts is another critical aspect of a divorce. Generally, the goal is to divide assets and debts equitably, though not always equally.

This includes property, savings, pensions, and investments acquired during the marriage. Factors considered can include each spouse’s financial contributions to the marriage, their future earning potential, and any prenuptial agreements. The primary factor to be considered is that of needs, and often this will override other factors such as contributions.

Considerations for the family home

Deciding what happens to the family home is often one of the most significant decisions. Options include selling the home and dividing the proceeds, one spouse buying out the other’s share, or one spouse continuing to live in the home for a set period, especially when children are involved.

Stuart said: “Whichever option a couple decides to use, it’s important that they follow any legal advice provided and that child welfare is prioritised.”

Insurance and estate planning

Following a divorce, individuals should review and update their life insurance policies, beneficiaries, and estate planning documents, including Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney, to reflect new wishes.

Some couples choose to leave these documents in place, depending on their individual situation and the circumstances behind the separation.

Stuart finished: “Divorce is a complex issue made more so by the financial considerations involved. We can advise on putting your best foot forward when it comes to divorce proceedings in order to keep your finances stable and avoid undue distress.”

For further guidance, please contact the Mander Hadley Family Law team today.

Stuart Daniel

Head of Family Department

I qualified as a Solicitor in 2006 and now specialise in divorce, financial settlements, childcare arrangements and Pre Nuptial Agreements. I have many years’ experience as a private family lawyer having worked with two other local firms before returning to Mander Hadley, where I first undertook work experience during my university studies.