As expert Family lawyers Surrey, we are used to helping couples negotiate in the aftermath of a separation. Once you have decided that separation/divorce are the way forward, then you will need to have discussions about how to divide up your home, possessions, money, assets and pensions.
The two main decisions (other than children, if you have them) are usually around the home and any pensions either of you may contribute to. Make sure that you take time to have these discussions, but in a calm environment and when you have both come to terms with the situation and are ready to talk.
You can come to any arrangements between yourselves, but it is always best to obtain some sort of legal agreement, so as to protect yourself in the future from any ‘he said, she said’ conversations and back tracking of arrangements from either party. As family lawyers Surrey we are well versed in these situations and can help you through the many choices and decisions you will need to make.
Where possible go through all the financials together. When divorcing you will both be required to disclose all your income on a financial disclosure form. You will need to be 100% honest on this, as if you are discovered later to have hidden something the courts will take a dim view of this, and you could find yourself heavily penalised. You will also need to know all the debts you have including things like, store cards, credit cards, loans, overdrafts etc. You should also make a note of any household bills where you are in arrears. Having all this information written down will make things a lot easier to see and is an excellent starting point for financial discussions, as you will clearly see how much you have coming in and how much is going out.
Sorting out the home can be a difficult area and a lot will depend on your financial status and whether or not one of you can continue to pay for the house when the other moves out. You may decide that one of you continues to contribute to the mortgage and/or household bills when they have left, or it may be that you can afford to pay it all yourself. Every couple is different and some decisions will be different depending on whether you have children or not too. Some couples may even continue to share the same home after separating, but obviously most couples will want a clean break post separation and to either buy or rent their own home.
If you have a lot of equity (money left after the sale of a house once the mortgage is paid off) then you may wish to sell the property and divide the money left between you, enabling you both to purchase your own individual properties. If there isn’t a lot of equity in the property currently you may wish for one of you to stay there. Dividing up the amount of equity you would both receive depends on several factors – things like:
Did you stay home with the children whilst your partner worked?
Do you have any other property in your name?
How long have you been married or in a civil partnership?
How much do you both earn from all your jobs?
How much have you individually contributed financially to the household?
Here at Gregorian Emerson Family Law Solicitors, we can discuss with you all options open to you and advise you on what to expect from the equity, based on your individual circumstances. We are experienced family lawyers Surrey and will explain everything to you in a simple, understandable manner so you can make informed choices which are the best for you and your circumstances.
If you wish to sell the property you will need to obtain a valuation, preferably from at least 2/3 reputable local estate agents. You will also need a mortgage statement from your mortgage provider to ascertain how much is outstanding. This will give you an indication of how much equity is in the property.
Another option is to buy your partner out so you can own it on your own. You will, however, need to speak to your mortgage provider, as even if you can come to an arrangement between yourselves they will need to be satisfied that you can afford the repayments alone. You can also ask your mortgage provider if they can offer you a better deal if you put it all in your own name, or if there is anything they can suggest to help you obtain a better deal. If you would be unable to afford the repayments at the moment they may consider letting you change to an interest only deal, which would lower your monthly payments – but make sure you take all financial options into consideration before making any decisions, as some decisions could have an impact in years to come.
You will also need to divide up your other assets.
This will be your personal belongings, this isn’t just clothing etc, but also things like jewellery and furniture.
Any savings you both have, and/or money currently in your accounts.
Your cars, motorbikes, and any other modes of transport you may have.
It can seem daunting, but it may be worth starting off by listing everything over a certain value, say £250, or any particular items that you wish to keep.
Where you have shared debts, you are both responsible for these – so if one of you stops paying their share, then you are responsible for the full amount. It is a good idea to speak to a solicitor regarding these issues and to get something drawn up legally between you to prevent problems from occurring. This is especially important if you have any worries that your partner is unable to, or simply won’t pay their share.
If you currently have a shared bank account it is usual to close it down (both of you are required to give permission to do this) and to open separate accounts to avoid any disagreements over money. If you are overdrawn then you only need one of you to ask the bank to freeze it, this can help to stop a partner in a hostile separation from deliberately spending or withdrawing monies and making the situation worse.
If you relied on your partner’s income during your marriage or civil partnership, then you may be able to ask for financial support – this is known as ‘spousal maintenance’ and will be in addition to any child maintenance you may entitled to. If you do have children together then you will usually share the cost of any childcare required. As family lawyers Surrey we can discuss all options open to you and help you to reach an informed decision based on your own personal circumstances.
For any family law queries you may have, please contact us on 01483 826470.