Legal Eagle column: What is a fair divorce settlement?

Beth Woodward is a partner at Neves Solicitors and a family lawyer. Much of her work deals with the financial aspects of divorce and the breakdown of relationships.

When I first meet clients coming out of relationships they say three things to me: I want what’s fair, I don’t want my children to suffer because we have split up, I am worried my ex is going to screw me financially.

So, what is fair?

A fair financial settlement is one that takes as its starting point an equal division of the assets, then adjusts this to take into account various factors.

These factors are listed in divorce law. The first priority is given to the welfare of children whilst still at school.

Weight is also given to your reasonable needs now and in the future including the needs of the children, your earning capacities, the length of the marriage, your ages, contributions in money’s worth and as homemaker towards the family, your living standards, and loss of pension rights on divorce.

We all have our own internal sense of what is fair, and naturally place focus on our own contributions and needs.

Legal advice helps you understand what emphasis to put on this, and whether your sense of what is fair, is right.

How do you protect children?

By shielding them from arguments or from a negative view of their other parent. Research shows that children won’t be harmed by their parents’ separation as long as they are not caught up in conflict or left feeling they have to choose between their parents.

How do I make sure I get what is due?

It is important that you understand from the outset what your legal rights are and what constitutes a fair settlement.

If you reach an agreement between yourselves it is crucial it is put into a legal framework so that it can be enforced, and in years to come your ex cannot come back and claim more.

If you are unable to see eye to eye about what is fair then lawyers can signpost you to mediators or help you negotiate a settlement that works for you.

A word of warning: Unmarried couples don’t have the same rights as married ones. This can lead to very unfair outcomes.

A Cohabitation Agreement entered into whilst you are still together can ensure you treat each other fairly, and there are no nasty surprises if the relationship ends.

Next Steps? We offer a one-hour fixed fee meeting to help you understand the options available to you. Call Beth at Neves Solicitors on 01908 304560.

This column was published in the January 2018 issue of Celebrate:MK lifestyle magazine. Read the full magazine above or by clicking on this link.

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