How much am I entitled to after divorce/dissolution?

Dispelling the myth of an automatic 50/50 asset split in divorces, the court’s nuanced approach prioritises fairness, children’s welfare, and individual circumstances, considering a wide range of factors from income to contributions and needs.

It is a common misconception that all assets are split 50/50 after a divorce. Although a 50/50 split is a common starting point and is used as a cross check by the court, there is no hard and fast 50/50 rule. 

Whilst it is absolutely possible to resolve matrimonial finances without going to court, it is sensible to bear in mind the approach and factors taken into account by the courts. Even agreements need to be turned into orders to be enforceable, and the court does not simply rubber stamp agreements. The factors below are also relevant to considering finances after the breakdown of a civil partnership. 

The court’s approach is set down in section 25 of The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.  The aim of the court is to achieve a fair result based on the circumstances of the case, with children (under the age of 18) being the first consideration.  The court is specifically required to consider the following: 

(a) the income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each of the parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future, including in the case of earning capacity any increase in that capacity which it would in the opinion of the court be reasonable to expect a party to the marriage to take steps to acquire. 

In plain English this means, what the parties have (whether in sole or joint names) or are likely to have in respect of assets (including property, savings, businesses, investments and pensions) and incomes, including any increase in income that it would be reasonable for a party to acquire. 

(b) the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each of the parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;

In plain English this means what the parties need in terms of income and capital, now and in the foreseeable future. Usually somewhere to live, sufficient income and, depending on ages, income in retirement. 

(c) the standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage;

In plain English this means, circumstances such as, holidays, meals out, socialising and new cars. This does not mean that each party is entitled to the same standard of living after separation. Often it is not possible to replicate the marital standard of living as the assets and income that have previously supported one household now need to support two households. 

(d) the age of each party to the marriage and the duration of the marriage;

In plain English this means, the younger the parties, the less retirement incomes may be a consideration. The older the parties the more important pension considerations become. Age will also impact upon the ability to earn income. The shorter a marriage the more important individual contributions are likely to be. 

Pre-martial cohabitation may also be taken into account. 

(e) any physical or mental disability of either of the parties to the marriage;

Such disabilities may impact upon a parties’ needs.

(f) the contributions which each of the parties has made or is likely in the foreseeable future to make to the welfare of the family, including any contribution by looking after the home or caring for the family;

Contributions to the welfare of the family are seen as equal to financial contributions. There can be no discrimination against a home maker. Where needs cannot be met without distributing assets contributed by one party only, the needs argument is likely to carry more weight than a contributions argument.

(g) the conduct of each of the parties, if that conduct is such that it would in the opinion of the court be inequitable to disregard it;

There are different types of conduct, including litigation conduct. There is a very high bar for taking personal conduct into account. Litigation conduct may result in orders for costs.

(h) in the case of proceedings for divorce or nullity of marriage, the value to each of the parties to the marriage of any benefit  which, by reason of the dissolution or annulment of the marriage, that party will lose the chance of acquiring.

This provision is often relied upon when making arguments to share pensions.

The court is also obliged to consider whether there can be a clean break between the parties and case law requires the court to consider needs, compensation and sharing. 

Each of these factors and how they are applied is a lengthy topic and is always evolving through case law. RLK Solicitors have experienced family law solicitors able to advise upon the factors most relevant to your circumstances and how these should be taken into account. A realistic approach often saves both time and money.

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