You don’t need to go to court to sort out your property and financial arrangements but it’s always best to have them recorded in a court order, especially if it’s a clean break you’re looking for.
The first step is always full financial disclosure of all assets and income by both parties. If one party is unwilling to make proper financial disclosure then it’s likely that the matter will have to be dealt with by the court – unless it’s something fairly small you think has been hidden, in which case all the extra costs of going to court would not be justified.
Once all the assets have been valued they are totalled up and the starting point for their division is 50/50. But it’s only the finishing point too if a couple has no children, earn roughly the same and contributed about the same to the assets/marriage. The majority of cases are determined on a ‘needs’ basis, usually what the wife needs to be able to house and keep herself and the children.
If you go to court, and probably also if you go to a solicitor for advice and/or to negotiate a financial settlement for you, you will need to complete a Form E. This is a 29 page financial statement which covers all your assets, income, pensions, debts etc. and will usually take you some weeks to complete. If it’s for court proceedings it’s important to get this right as you may not get another opportunity to say all you need to. If you don’t have a solicitor and need any help with this form just give me a ring on 01932 843 434 or send me an email at email@example.com.
The reason I contacted Diana was because I received a solicitor’s letter out of the blue from my then husband. I had no idea he was going to go down the solicitors route but fuelled by his mother he did, and he did so with full force. When I received the letter I was absolutely terrified, I had no idea what it really meant and I was going mad toying between just ignoring it completely and hoping it would all just go away (I was good at that at times!) or doing exactly as it said as it was so official, I felt I had to. What also scared me was the fact I knew I couldn’t afford a solicitor to defend me. So I went to work on representing myself and via an internet search I found Diana.
I called her for my free consultation, left a message on her answer machine and within 24 hours she rang me back and very casually told me to calm down and take no notice of the nonsense written in the letter! It was music to my ears and after speaking with her, I knew I was on the right road.
My divorce was complicated for a whole number of reasons but one thing was certain, my husband was going to make sure he got as much as he possibly could regardless of how much it cost him in solicitor and court fees. It was a long drawn out process (18 months) but along the way Diana taught me how to draft letters, what to say and what not to say and save for later and by the time the court date drew closer I actually ended up feeling rather smug. I realised from his financial statements he was paying an absolute fortune in fees and here I was with a top class London lawyer for a fraction of the price! (He paid over £20,000 and it cost me less than 15% of that, just over £2,600.)
Being so far away from Diana was never a problem, she was always at the end of the phone or email, mainly email but when things did get complex, I knew I could always call her so that she could explain the more complicated matters better. She was always encouraging and I was always thankful for that as the process does get you down at times. One thing she is though is straight to the point and there’s no hiding from her! At times I wanted it all to go away or hear a different answer but she always told me the truth about how the situation looked and very gently whipped me into action when paperwork needed doing!
I did end up in court over my financial settlement as my husband never wanted to sort matters out amicably, he wanted his day in court and he got it. The court process is incredibly complicated for a lay person and very procedural. I went several times on my own with just the advice and guidance from Diana, it’s not easy but you learn along the way and Diana was only ever a phone call away. For the final stage of the financial settlement Diana suggested I take a McKenzie friend along as the process was to get more complicated and I would need the support. Diana knew just the person and contacted Robert on my behalf. On the day he was an absolute blessing and whilst he wasn’t a trained solicitor he understood the process, the language and advised me accordingly on what was going on and what would happen next. He was invaluable and Diana’s judgement to get him in at that point was spot on.
Looking back with hindsight I wouldn’t have done it any differently. The financial settlement was eventually agreed between us both during the FDR with the Judge’s guidance and advice and it was one that I felt was fair to both of us. I never wanted to ‘take my husband for everything’ so lining a solicitor’s pockets to do that would have been a complete waste of money for me. There were times when I felt it would have been so much easier to have paid a solicitor to complete forms and write letters but with Diana’s support and encouragement and taking things one step at a time, it was more than doable and nowhere near as scary as I thought it was going to be.
Diana is a gem and I would advise anyone going through or about to go through a divorce to contact her first. As I said earlier my divorce was incredibly complicated and the solicitor on the other side certainly didn’t make it any easier for me but with Diana by my side (or rather on my shoulder!) I managed to pull it off, represent myself in court and even come out of it the other side smiling about some of the giggles I had with Diana about ‘the other side and Mr M’ as we nicknamed him along the way!
Claire, North Wales
From my point of view this was a very straightforward case with nothing complicated about it at all. It should never have gone to court: the parties could easily have resolved this in mediation in half the time and for a fraction of the cost. It seemed to me that the husband’s solicitor was determined to make as much money as possible and drew it out and complicated it where he could, and of course his client knew no better. What Claire says about the court process and procedure is absolutely right though, it is complicated and daunting for a lay person. Claire knew what she wanted out of the proceedings and was determined and courageous throughout. She would not have got a better result had she been represented, but I suspect the legal fees she would have paid would have meant she lost one of the things she most wanted to keep.
You might also be interested in reading the ‘Legal Structure of Divorce’ a two-minute guide to divorce proceedings.