Resolving the financial issues in divorce (6)

Form E  is the document which summarises the financial situation of the applicant ( the person who opposes the application will prepare a similar document) and explains to the court what the applicant is asking from the court and why. It is referred to as “Form E” from its technical name in the rules. It is a central document in an  application to resolve the financial issues arising from the marriage and should be drafted with care. It will contain some or all of the following information as applicable and may contain additional information depending on the particular circumstances of each case:-

1. The ages of the parties.
2. The length of the marriage.
3. Their occupations.
4. The names and ages of any children.
5. The approximate value of the matrimonial home, details of its ownership and whether it is subject to any mortgage or charge and, if so, for how much.
6. Whether either party owns any other land or capital asset and, if so, details of its ownership and value.
7. Details of any bank or building society accounts held including the current balances.
8. Details of any TESSAs, PEPs, stocks, shares etc held.
9. Details of any insurance policies in which the applicant has an interest including its value.
10. Any National Savings Certificates, Premium Bonds etc.
11. Details of any debts owed to the applicant (which may, for instance, include damages that the applicant might stand to receive as a result of another court case).
12. Details of any business assets – shares in a private company or in a partnership etc.
13. Any pension entitlements due to be received in the future – including the nature of those benefits, when they are due to be paid and the current transfer value of the pension.
14. Details of any capital liabilities such as debts owed to a bank or hire purchase debts etc.
15. Whether the applicant has any other significant capital asset such as cars, jewellery etc (although in practice the courts are unlikely to bother with personal items with a value of less than a few thousand pounds).
16. Details of income from all sources – whether from employment, self-employment, interest, dividends, state pensions, pensions, income under a trust or whatever.
17. Future needs. These might include:-

1. What sort of income the applicant would need to support him/herself and/or any children and what the future income of the applicant from all sources is likely to be.
2. What sort of accommodation the applicant will need and this may include the accommodation needs of any children.
3. Whether there are any other capital needs such as the need, for instance, for a car.
4. What the applicant’s future outgoings are likely to be.

18. Any special circumstances. Whether, for example, the applicant or any of the children is disabled or has any special educational or other needs etc.
19. Whether there is something about the conduct of the other party which the court should take into account (although this is rare because conduct has to be really extreme in order to be relevant).
20. What sort of orders the applicant seeks from the court – a “clean break”, maintenance, a transfer of property etc.

The above gives an indication of the sort of information which goes into the form and it should be obvious that it takes some time to prepare and to do properly. It also, incidentally, helps explain why in answer to the question, ‘How long does a divorce take in the UK?’ the answer can be longer than the questioner would wish in those common cases where it is not possible to apply for decree absolute until financial issues have been settled. Resolving the financial issues arising from the marriage can sometimes significantly slow down a divorce.

It is important to understand that in UK divorce law each case is different and needs to be considered carefully. Everyone’s financial and personal circumstances are different as are people’s aims and goals. These personal factors mean that each Form E is very different and it is not really a matter of simply ticking boxes. The above is merely a rough and ready checklist but in any individual case other factors might come into play or the emphasis on any particular factor might be different. In some cases divorce pension entitlement may be the area of dispute, in other cases the former matrimonial home or any of a range of other possible issues such as how long any periodical payments should last.

For example, a husband and wife have two young school age children and both husband and wife go out to work. The value of the former matrimonial home is such that it could be sold and the proceeds divided between husband and wife. Husband says that the wife needs a three bedroomed property (which would seem to be the case) and that suitable three bedroomed properties can be found in X neighbourhood for such and such a price. (In circumstances such as these it is not unusual for the X neighbourhood suggested by the husband to be between the railway tracks and the gas works) The wife should certainly explain exactly what she needs by way of living accommodation in her Form E.

She may say, for instance, that she needs to live in Y neighbourhoood (where properties are invariably more expensive) because Y neighbourhood is:-

1. Near the children’s existing schools and friends.
2. Near the wife’s place of work.
3. Near the wife’s parents who can look after the children until the wife comes home from work.

Each of these is a perfectly good reason for wanting to live in the more expensive Y neighbourhood and such circumstances should be explained in the Form and, if necessary, backed up by estate agents’ particulars of the prices of suitable properties in that neighbourhood. This is a simple example which illustrates how cases are different and need to be looked at individually. The Form E should reflect this.

Please continue to find out more about ancillary relief proceedings.

Spouses involved in divorce in England always want to know on what basis the UK divorce law decides financial issues between husband and wife if the Courts have to decide the issue. Indeed, this is what is at the heart of most divorce cases. If there is a dispute it is more likely than not to be about money whether that is about periodical payments for a spouse, dividing the equity in the former matrimonial home or divorce and pensions. In fact, the relevant principles are set out in Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 which, essentially, reads:-

”It shall be the duty of the court in deciding whether to exercise its powers ….. to have regard to all the circumstances of the cases, first consideration being given to the welfare while a minor of any child of the family who has not attained the age of eighteen.

25 (1) It shall be the duty of the court in deciding whether to exercise its powers …. to have regard to all the circumstances of the case including the following matters, that is to say –

(a) 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;

(b) the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each of the parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;

(c) the standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage;

(d) the age of each party to the marriage and the duration of the marriage;

(e) any physical or mental disability of either of the parties to the marriage;

(f) the contributions made by each of the parties to the welfare of the family, including any contribution made by looking after the home or caring for the family;

(g) …the value to either of the parties to the marriage of any benefit (for example, a pension) which … (by reason of the divorce) ..that party will lose the chance of acquiring;…”

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