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Make sure your divorce is not just cheap but fair – why legal advice can make all the difference.

Make sure your divorce is not just cheap but fair – why legal advice can make all the difference.

Taking legal advice when you divorce doesn’t need to be expensive and could mean the difference between a fair settlement and losing out on thousands in the long term.

This is the clear message from a recent report, led by the University of Bristol, which found that many ordinary divorcing couples today are opting to cut divorce costs by sorting out the housing, pensions and any ongoing maintenance themselves.

According to the Fair Shares Project, this means that women in particular are missing out financially because their divorce settlement does not take into account all the available assets, including, crucially, their ex-partner’s pension.

Emma Hitchings, the report’s author and a family law professor at the University of Bristol, says: “In the wake of cuts to legal aid and hampered by a lack of financial and legal knowledge, couples are trying to divorce on the cheap.

“But this means they are bypassing a legal system designed to achieve fairness. That is leaving women worse off and putting their financial security at risk.”

Does taking legal advice on divorce have to cost a lot?

The short answer is no.

The Fair Shares report – the first nationally representative study to look at the financial arrangements of divorcing couples in England and Wales – dispels media myths about divorce settlements always involving large amounts of money.

In fact, the average divorce pot currently stands at just £135,000 once the home, pensions and debts have been taken into account. Just 9% of those surveyed had assets worth more than £1 million.

However, the report also shows that despite money being tight, 25% of those who did seek legal or mediation advice – one third of the 2,415 people surveyed – found that it cost less than £1,000 to do so. A further 18% had costs between £1,000 and £3,000.

This is clearly money well spent compared to the potentially heavy price tag of getting the financial side of a divorce wrong.

Why are pensions so important in a divorce settlement?

The report shows that pensions, which can be incredibly valuable assets, are widely misunderstood.

A third did not know the value of their own pension pot let alone that of their ex-partner and only 10% of divorcees with pensions had arrangements for pension sharing.

Emma Hitchings added: “Without all assets, particularly pensions, being considered on divorce, the future financial security of many women, who generally have smaller pension pots than men, is being put at risk.”

Why is getting the financial side securely sorted so important when you divorce?

It’s crucial to tie up all the all financial matters, including pensions, before applying for the final order (what used to be known as the decree absolute) to ensure you have a legally enforceable settlement for the future.

A financial order details how all finances will be divided between you when you divorce including agreements in relation to the sale or transfer of the marital home, possibly ongoing maintenance, the division of pensions and lump sum payments.

A judge in the Family Court can then approve this and once it’s done, neither of you – except in rare circumstances – can return to make a financial claim in the future. This is also known as a ‘clean break’ agreement.

If you divorce without a property negotiated settlement, or even without an agreement at all, the likelihood of getting an outcome that is fair to both partners, as well as any children, is much less likely.

Get in touch

Our family lawyers understand the many pressures, including financial ones, facing separating couples and obtaining advice from us does not need to be expensive.

We offer, where appropriate, a free initial half hour consultation to explain the divorce process clearly, outline all your options and help you make a plan going forward.

In addition, we have a range of divorce fixed fee packages we can discuss with you at your consultation.

Wards Solicitors is endorsed as a South West leading firm in the independent Legal 500 list for 2024 having received overwhelmingly positive testimonials from clients.

Our Family Law Team wins praise as a recommended service area with head Alison Bradley highlighted as an ‘expert in the sector’.

Posted by: Alison Bradley




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