The Legal Steps To Take When Your Relationship Ends

When you reach breaking point within your relationship, thoughts will flash through your mind about your children, your house, your financial commitments and what the future holds. All of this is painful enough without the stress and anxiety that inevitably follows with regard to legal proceedings.

At Hylton-Potts, we’ve helped hundreds of couples through this turbulent time, and people have even come to us on a consultation basis before having the initial conversation with their spouse about filing for divorce. Although we would urge you to come to us for a discussion as soon as possible, we’ve put together a brief overview of the proceedings, what will be expected of you and what options are available to you.

We hope that this serves as a guide for you when you first come to see us, and that it eases some initial concerns.

Agreement and consent

It might be the case after the initial shock of the situation has worn off, that you and your spouse are able to work out an agreement without the courts getting involved. Plenty of couples have used the divorce and separation calculator to work out their finances and joint assets, while various sources such as their solicitor and online documents can help them to reach to an agreement with their partner. After you’ve gone through all the details of your joint estate, you can then apply for a ‘consent order’ through the courts to make this agreement legally binding.

In order to apply for a consent order, you will need to consult us first to draft it. Remember, this is a legally binding document that confirms your agreement, and can include details regarding the division of money, property, savings and investments. Paying attention to detail and ensuring that a professional takes care of this for you is essential. If you have children, this consent order can also include your arrangements for them, such as child maintenance.

Both you and your ex-partner will both have to sign the draft consent order, and fill in a notice of application for a financial order as well as a statement of information form. These forms will then need to be sent to the court with the drafted consent order attached. The consent order costs £50, although you may receive help with this dependent on your circumstance, but make sure you keep your own copies. There’s a lot of paperwork and proceedings to work through though which can be very tricky, so don’t suffer in silence. Our experts at Hylton-Potts are always on hand to work through the finer details with you, so don’t be afraid to get in touch.

If the consent order is found to be fair and reasonable, a judge will approve the agreement as legally binding.

Mediation and a financial order

Alternatively, if you and your partner are having difficulty in deciding how to calculate the split in those first initial steps, you can ask the courts to decide via a ‘financial order’, but you will need to go through the mediation process beforehand.

If this isn’t a term you’ve come across before, mediation is where an independent and impartial person works through your problems with you and your ex-partner to try to find a solution to them. If going through the courts, you must consider mediation. There are a few exceptions to this, such as if there has been a history of domestic abuse, so it is vital that you consult your solicitor about this.

When you apply for a financial order through the courts, you will need to complete the mediation section of your application that proves you have either attended a mediation session or proves your exemption. After this process, you can apply for a financial order if you want the following:

Applying for a financial order costs are higher at £255, as the process is separate from the divorce. It usually takes longer to complete at around 6 to 12 months, given that you may have to attend court appointments and a number of court hearings too. You must send two copies of the form to the court dealing with your case, again, keeping your own copies.

How does the court split my assets?

This part of the proceedings is relatively straightforward. A judge will give the deciding vote on the division of assets based on the longevity of your marriage or civil partnership, as well as a number of other factors including age, income, property, expenses, standard of living and your role within the marriage, i.e. were you the breadwinner or primary carer.

The judge will always make arrangements for any children first, such as housing and maintenance, before arranging a ‘clean break’, where everything is shared out and you no longer have any financial ties to one another.

Sometimes, a court may tell the person with the higher income to make regular maintenance payments to help with the other person’s living costs, in what is called a ‘maintenance order’. These can be set for a limited period of time, or until one of you dies, marries or enters into a new civil partnership, but these payments can also be changed if one of you loses your job or gets higher paid work.

What about tax and the transfer of assets?

Most people who come to see us about separation proceedings are concerned about where the tax element comes in. Put simply, you don’t usually have to pay Capital Gains Tax if you give or dispose of assets to your partner. However, you may have to do so on assets that you transfer to your ex-partner after your relationship ends. Assets like this can include shares, personal possessions and property, but not usually your main home.

If you lived together at any point in the tax year (6th April to 5th April the following year) of the transfer, the normal rules for spouses and civil partners apply – otherwise, you may have to pay Capital Gains Tax. You’ll need to get a valuation of the asset on the date of transfer, and use it to work out the gain or loss.

The rules for working out your gain or loss are complex, so it’s best to contact HM Revenue and Customs or get professional tax help, such as that of an accountant or tax adviser. You’ll need the following information:

  • the date of the decree absolute or dissolution
  • the date of any court order, if assets were transferred this way
  • the date of any other contract showing the transfer of assets

At Hylton-Potts, we completely understand how hard this is to take in at a truly emotional and distressing time, which is why we are here to help you work through it all with a friendly and professional approach. Don’t hesitate to get in touch by calling us on 020 7381 8111, or via email at [email protected].

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