DIVORCE & FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE

FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE

However you reach a financial settlement it is important that the basis of the agreement is recorded and ideally converted into a financial Court Order, to give you both future financial security.  If divorce financial disclosure isn’t provided or is inaccurate the agreement or Order could be challenged at a later date.

What divorce financial disclosure do we need to give?

If you are using Mediation or asking solicitors to negotiate a financial settlement then you and your ex-partner will need to agree on how much financial paperwork you should provide one another. Most couples agree to swop the same sort of financial documents that they would have to provide if one of them started financial Court proceedings.

It is often sensible to take early divorce and family law advice to make sure that you both have enough divorce financial disclosure and supporting paperwork. What you think is sufficient may not be or additional key information may be needed, such as housing needs, job prospects or future household outgoings, in order to help you make an informed decision.

If you can’t reach an agreement on how much financial paperwork should be disclosed either you or your ex-partner could start financial Court proceedings. Within the Court proceedings a judge would order standard divorce financial disclosure. The judge could also order extra paperwork and reports.

The amount of financial disclosure you think is relevant may be very different to your ex-partner but ultimately, if you can’t agree on how much paperwork should be provided the Court can make the decision within financial proceedings.

Some couples decide that they do not need to see historical documents or joint bank account statements as they have already had access to the paperwork. The important thing is that you both feel that you have enough information to make financial decisions.

If financial Court proceedings are started what is the standard divorce financial disclosure?

The first stage in the court process is for the husband and wife to exchange      divorce financial disclosure on a standard form called a form E. Often this form is used when providing documents on a voluntary basis. The following standard documents accompany the form E:-

  • Your most recent P60, last three months’ payslips and P11D;
  • If self-employed, a copy of your last tax assessment or if that is not available, a letter from your accountant confirming your tax liability and your last 2 years business accounts;
  • A list of your current and estimated future monthly outgoings;
  • Details of any property you own and if there is a mortgage on the property  a mortgage statement showing the balance owing together with details of any other loans secured against the property;
  • Copies of personal bank, building society and national savings account statements for the last twelve months for each account that has been held in the last twelve months – either in your own name or in which you had or have had any interest;
  • The surrender valuation for each insurance or investment policy and current valuation/statements of all savings and investments including  ISAs, PEPs, National Savings Certificates, Premium Bonds, Shares, Stocks, Bonds, Securities, Gilts, Unit Trusts, Trust Funds, Save As You Earn Schemes, or any other savings plans;
  • Details of any personal belongings individually worth more than £500 (e.g. car, jewellery, antique furniture);
  • Details of any monies owed to you;
  • The amounts owing, if any, on any bank overdraft, HP loan agreement, credit and store cards or other liabilities, (e.g. to friends or family)  with documentary evidence in support;
  • A recent statement showing the cash equivalent transfer value (known as CETV) provided by the trustees or manager of each pension arrangement that you have.

It is sensible to get legal advice before sorting out divorce  financial disclosure as all the information may not be relevant to you or if your finances are complicated it may be necessary to ask for additional documents or to make sure that assets are not sold or mortgaged before you sort out a financial settlement.

What are the duties in relation to divorce and financial disclosure?

In financial proceedings the Court requires full, frank and clear financial disclosure. This duty is ongoing and includes a duty to disclose any material change in financial circumstances. This can include disclosing a proposed sale of a business, sale of a house or shares, or a change in relationship status.

The Court also imposes a duty to disclose any confidential information or documentation that a spouse holds about the other spouse. When deciding whether or not documents are “confidential” the Court considers whether or not the person who states that the documents are confidential had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to the confidential paperwork. If you possess confidential information belonging to your spouse or you become aware of any confidential information or documentation a solicitor will not be able to discuss the contents with you. To do so could result in the solicitor not being able to represent you or could result in civil action or costs Orders being made against you. If you do come into possession of any confidential information or documentation, the documentation should be delivered to your spouse’s representative.

 

I want to challenge a Court Order as my spouse did not disclose an asset in the divorce and financial disclosure

If an Order relates to spousal maintenance an application can be made to vary the amount of spousal maintenance if there has been a change in circumstance of the payer of the spousal maintenance or the payee.

If the financial Court Order relates to property or a cash settlement it is a lot harder to challenge the Order at a later date unless a spouse can show that there was fraud or a lack of financial disclosure. As it is difficult and expensive to challenge a financial Court Order once the Order is made it is important that both you and your spouse give the right level of financial disclosure before the Order is made and the right questions are asked on your behalf and expert reports obtained. If financial disclosure was inadequate then if Court proceedings are started to try to unravel the financial Court Order this can prove expensive so it is best to get the disclosure right from the outset.

 

We have an agreement so do we need to disclose any financial information?

Lots of couples think that if they reach an agreement they won’t need to tell anyone about their finances to get a Court Order. That is not correct .If a couple want the security of a financial Court Order they have to fill in paperwork for the Court giving basic information about their property, assets and income before the Court will approve the agreed financial Court Order. It is prudent to get legal advice on what information you will need to give, whether or not you are able to reach an agreement.

 

Next steps

It is sensible to take advice from divorce and financial disclosure solicitors at an early stage so that you know how much paperwork you and your partner will need to exchange and to make sure that the disclosure is tailor made to yours and your spouse’s financial circumstances. Disclosing too little paperwork or trying to hide information and paperwork is likely to drag out the time it will take to reach a financial settlement or make it more likely that Court proceedings are started. Disclosing too much paperwork, when you both agree that it is not needed, can increase costs. Evolve divorce solicitors help you strike the right level of divorce financial disclosure to come to a fair financial settlement or guide you through the divorce and financial disclosure Court process.