It is usually quicker and cheaper to negotiate a financial agreement out of Court. A family solicitor can help you to do this and can make sure that it is in an accepted format and uses terminology accepted by the Court for approval. The Court must approve an agreement as a Court Order (Sometimes called a Consent Order).
You can make a settlement at any time before, during or after your divorce however it is advisable to do so before either of you re-marry as this can complicate the process. It may be best to come to an agreement before the divorce is complete, as this way the Court can grant any orders at the same time as they grant the decree nisi. The long-term financial history of the marriage and any future prospects should be taken into account when reaching any financial settlement.
What type of financial arrangements can be made?
Periodical payments for the children (maintenance)
When children are involved in a divorce there is no such thing as a ‘clean break’, even is payments are made voluntarily. If the Court has jurisdiction to make an order, the amount that has to be paid on their behalf is usually described as an annual sum and is paid in either monthly or weekly sums. The sum that is to be paid in respect of each child should be stated in the agreement.
Usually, this maintenance is paid until the child turns seventeen but where a child is disabled or otherwise dependent, special considerations are made.
The Child Support Agency (CSA)
The Child Support Agency has the power to enforce maintenance payments is there are no voluntary arrangements made. Even if there is no contact with the child or the other parent re-marries, there is still a parental responsibility to care for the child financially.
Periodical payments for the spouse after divorce (maintenance)
After any maintenance for children (if any are involved) is worked out, the Court will look at any maintenance due to the spouse. It is becoming less common for a life-long maintenance agreement to be made and is usually made only for a fixed term. This type of maintenance will not end when and if the recipient cohabits with another partner. The amount paid can also be changed by a Court Order. As with any child maintenance, the amount that has to be paid on their behalf is usually described as an annual sum and is paid in either monthly or weekly sums.
There are no set guidelines that the Court has to consider when making these types of agreements, and it is often up to the discretion of the judge. The judge will usually take into account the full financial situation of both parties, and assess their individual needs and resources, as well as the needs of any children involved, to make their decision. Any debts or other financial obligations will be considered together with the capital of both parties. Pensions and other assets are also considered. It is the Court’s aim to arrive at a fair and reasonable agreement after considering all of the facts and evaluating the various factors that may come into play in each case’s individual circumstances.