How to get a fair deal for everyone if you are facing divorce

Written by
Lynn Beattie
Finances expert
28 October 2021
5 min read
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This is a tough conversation but it’s a fact of real life – relationships end. If yours does, whether you’re married or not, you’ll need to agree on how to split your money, property and other assets. Of course, if you have children you’ll also need to decide how you’ll co-parent in the future.

Let’s look at the process you go through to get your actual divorce, with some important matters to consider to ensure a fair divorce settlement for all.

Bear in mind that every divorce is different. A solicitor can help you fully understand your individual circumstances and guide you through the process.

Book an exploratory appointment with a recommended solicitor

As soon as you are ready, make an appointment with a recommended solicitor.

The very first session is usually charged at a reduced rate. This rate varies, but expect to pay around £100.

Use this time wisely to explain everything to the solicitor. To save time and money, send them an email beforehand outlining the divorce and basic financial details. In the meeting you will discuss your wishes from the divorce in terms of parental agreement and financial arrangements.

At each point, the solicitor should qualify how likely your asks are to be granted. They are the voice of realism, often needed in an emotional situation.

They will also spend time talking through the legal process and laying out the different routes a divorce can take.

The government will now contribute up to £500 towards the costs of mediation, if you’re eligible

Divorce mediation

Using mediation to agree your divorce settlement will cost far less than if your solicitor does it all.

What’s more, while you aren’t required to go to mediation, if you end up having to go to court to sort out your differences, you will need to prove you’ve been to a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM).

There are some exceptions when you don’t have to go to the MIAM before going to court – for example, if you’ve suffered domestic abuse.

Find your nearest family mediator on the Family Mediation Council website.

Your first session will be an introduction where you explain your situation and learn how mediation works and how much it costs.

At the end of the session, they ask if you think you can continue with mediation. Your ex-partner will have the same mediation session and hopefully agrees to progress to a first joint mediation session.

Typically, there is a six-week gap between this session and the first joint session.

The aim is to come up with a jointly agreed document with help from the mediator, which will cover childcare arrangements and financial arrangements.

The gap is long as a lot of information needs to be gathered from both parties of all financial assets. Every single asset and liability needs to be provided, so please take your statements with you.

Please ensure that everything is included here, not just property, but all savings, debts, investments and pensions.

How mediation works

After the first joint session, you are likely to know if you and your partner will be able to reach an agreement via the mediation route.

Each mediation session costs around £200, split between the two of you.

In March 2021, the government launched a Family Mediation Voucher Scheme for parents looking to sort out childcare arrangements without going to court.

The time-limited scheme was set up in response to COVID-19 to ease pressure on the family court by encouraging more separating couples to consider alternative ways of resolving their disputes, where appropriate.

If you're eligible, the government will contribute up to £500 towards the costs of mediation. You may be eligible for the voucher if there is:

  • a dispute or application about a child
  • a dispute or application around financial family matters relating to a child

It’s first-come, first-served and only mediators authorised by the Family Mediation Council (FMC) are taking part in the voucher scheme. You can find out more here.

It is recommended that you should do two to five joint sessions.

The mediator will then turn the discussions into a memorandum of agreement. This document goes back to your solicitor, who will then write a consent order.

Just one solicitor writes this, the other checks it meets all the requirements.

The full mediation process, along with documents produced, typically costs around £2,500 each. This includes the solicitor cost of sending the initial paperwork and then consent order to court, and getting the decree nisi, then later the decree absolute, to complete the divorce process.

If mediation fails

If mediation fails, the solicitors need to agree the consent order (financials and childcare arrangements).

A divorce agreed between solicitors is more time consuming but they are expert negotiators, sorting things out to work in your best interests

They will agree the consent order and paperwork to go to court.

If the divorce agreement fails at this stage, it will need to go to court for a judge to decide.

Finally, your divorce is final.

The divorce process can take a lot of time when you consider all the routes it can take to come to a resolution, particularly with complex financial negotiations and childcare arrangements.

But when that decree absolute comes through and you are 100% legally divorced, you can move on from what can be one of the most stressful experiences we can go through.

The information in this article is based on legislation in England and Wales. Getting a divorce in Scotland or Northern Ireland is different. Since everyone’s personal circumstances are different, it’s recommended that you take legal advice.

3 things to do right now...

You can make managing your co-parenting simpler with the Amicable app. With the calendar feature, you can keep track of individual and shared events, including school drop offs and pickups, dental and medical appointments and school holiday activities. It can also keep track of all the costs involved.

Think twice before being tempted to do it yourself. You can apply for a divorce yourself online. However, please proceed with caution. Legal advice is highly recommended to ensure all is fair in any legally binding court order.

Don’t forget to discuss pensions. As the second biggest asset most couples own, retirement savings are overlooked in seven out of 10 divorces. Make sure that this is considered in any final agreement.

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Don’t forget that while you may think that this article is brilliant, it is intended for information purposes only and should not be mistaken for financial advice or recommendations.