Do It Yourself Costs Money

Figures show that, relative to the number of divorces, very few financial orders are made. How can that be? Most people who can actually afford the cost of the divorce court fee will have some financial issues which need to be resolved, certainly if they are of the generation that could still afford to buy a house.

The answer can only be that more and more people are settling everything direct between them without troubling lawyers, mediators or courts. It’s easy to understand the wish to avoid lawyers and mediators and thus costs. The failure then to make whatever is agreed direct legally binding in the shape of a court order is a different matter. I suspect that it’s just that most people have absolutely no idea that claims remain open unless there is an order. Indeed, looked at with none professional eyes, there’s a logic to the idea that all claims end on divorce itself. I’ve heard that misconception from many people over the years. The reality can come as a huge shock. I’ve seen quite a few clients for assessment meetings who have lived in the happy belief that everything was done and dusted many years before only to find out to their cost that wasn’t the case, usually when a lawyer’s letter landed on their mat. Some of those include cases where a house was sold with the proceeds divided very much in favour of one of the couple but the intention at the time was never translated into a binding agreement.

I wonder how many divorcing couples simply divide everything on the 50/50 lines which are very much fixed in the collective understanding without any notion that the economically weaker party may well be selling him or, more usually, herself short by a long margin. Then there’s maintenance. Most know about child support and work that out following the CMS calculator. However I know from what’s been said to me over the years that many people don’t realise there’s any spousal maintenance entitlement after decree absolute. Now that may be a commentary on whether spousal maintenance is seen as inherently unfair. The fact is however that, even if time limited, it can make a huge difference while children are dependent.

Then there is the whole issue of pensions. We don’t have to speculate here as we know that only a court order can achieve pension sharing. If orders aren’t being made, that whole vital entitlement to adjust for what are often substantial pension inequalities is simply being ignored. Whilst the number of pension sharing orders themselves is increasing when orders are made, it seems probable that many people who have been married for quite a while are simply walking away from a chance to even up pension inequality. Choices made as a couple about one of them taking a career break to bring up children have a tremendous effect on pension rights. Unless adjustments are made to cover what was after all a joint parental decision, the person who took the break pays the cost of that choice. Many will reach retirement significantly lacking in pension provision which could and should have been addressed years before on divorce.

I don’t begin to know how on earth one gets out there the message that taking legal advice and/or mediating can actually pay enormous dividends which far outweigh the costs involved.

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