One of the more complex areas of family law is financial provision following divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership.
Often one home becomes two, and working out how the family’s assets and income should be valued, separated and shared to achieve a fair outcome during an emotionally charged time can be difficult.
Our expert family team advises on the full range of financial disputes on divorce and dissolution. The team members use their extensive knowledge and experience to facilitate a financial settlement by negotiation, agreement and a consent order, wherever possible, and to navigate clients through financial remedy proceedings if matters cannot be resolved.
The family court has the power to make a range of financial orders pursuant to divorce and dissolution of a civil partnership. Financial awards take different forms and may include the transfer or sale of real and other property, the payment of capital lump sums, the variation of nuptial settlements, the sharing of pension funds and the payment of spousal and child maintenance.
There is no standard formula when determining appropriate financial provision on divorce and dissolution. The court must first consider the welfare of any child of the family, followed by the range of statutory factors set out in section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (the section 25 factors).
The family court has a wide discretion. Judges can be creative in their approach, and some may reach different conclusions on similar facts, all of which are within their judicial discretion.
We advise our clients on the full range of orders which could be made in the circumstances of their case. We also guide clients through the section 25 factors, explain how the relevant factors should be applied by the court and offer the range of possible outcomes if they are unable to resolve matters by consent.
There are often points of contention and arguments for and against different outcomes in each case. We have extensive experience in all areas and are well equipped to advise our clients on settlement and the right strategy for their case.
A significant number of the cases we deal with have international considerations, and many of them involve complex business and trust structures, both onshore and offshore, and lucrative remuneration packages with long term incentives.
As family lawyers we work closely with other lawyers at Sheridans, and with other leading professionals including family lawyers in other jurisdictions, accountants and trusts, tax, property and pensions experts to provide every client with seamless advice and a comprehensive, first-class, service, delivered as a trusted advisor.
When parties separate there can often be concerns about the concealment of assets, the transfer of assets to third parties and sales at an undervalue, which are intended to prejudice or defeat financial claims.
There are steps that we can take within financial remedy proceedings to investigate transactions on behalf of our clients, and to protect and secure assets pending the final determination of all financial claims and implementation of the financial orders.
Freezing orders (or freezing injunctions) can be urgently secured, and transactions made with the intention of prejudicing or defeating financial claims can be set aside. As experts in this field, we advise on the best strategy and act swiftly and efficiently to protect the interests of our clients and any children of the family.
Agreeing settlement terms or applying for financial provision can require us to consider how one spouse or civil partner is to be financially supported in the interim - before the final financial orders are made. This was once known as Maintenance Pending Suit (MPS) but is now more commonly known as interim provision, interim maintenance or interim periodical payments.
Many couples agree living arrangements and financial provision in the interim without court intervention. However, reaching an agreement about the use of the family home and financial support in the interim can be difficult, depending on the circumstances of the case and the nature and extent of the financial resources, and disputes can arise during the early stages.
If parties cannot agree the financial arrangements in the interim, an application may be made to the family court. A judge will then decide if one party should make financial provision for the other until the long-term financial issues are finally resolved.
Our experienced family team assists clients with organising and securing living arrangements, as well as financial provision in the interim, by negotiation and agreement wherever possible, and by an application to the court if matters cannot be resolved.
We pride ourselves on first-class legal service and unrivalled client care for all our clients.
Part of our bespoke service is having an open dialogue and ongoing conversations with our clients about legal fees and tailoring our service to meet their specific needs. This includes considering all options for litigation funding, when required.
We have relationships with litigation funders, ranging from lenders who provide clients with funding to cover their legal fees (and, on occasion, their living expenses) as they go through financial remedy proceedings, to private banks which can provide more bespoke loans for a range of family law services, depending on the nature and value of the family’s financial resources.
We are also experienced in making applications to the family court for Legal Services Orders (LSOs), which are often referred to as Legal Services Payment Orders (LSPOs), in cases where one party needs to seek a lump sum or regular payments from the other to be able to obtain legal services for the proceedings.
Whilst capital orders should be final, some financial orders can be varied or terminated if there should subsequently be a material change in the financial or other circumstances of the payer or payee.
Reasons that may justify a downward variation or termination of a spousal maintenance order include where a payee cohabits with a new partner or there is a significant reduction in the payer’s income due to the loss of employment, the collapse of a business or retirement.
On the other hand, a spousal maintenance order may be increased if all the circumstances justify an upwards variation, or capitalised and paid as a lump sum if the payer can reasonably afford to pay the required lump sum from their capital resources, to achieve a clean break.
We are matrimonial finance experts. We advise our clients on interim provision and funding for legal costs, as well as the full range of financial orders which could be made by the court in all the circumstances of their case.
We also explain how the relevant factors should be applied by the court, offer a range of possible outcomes if matters cannot be finally resolved by negotiation and consent, and take all required steps to ensure that the terms of their financial settlement can be implemented and enforced.
Andrea Plum and Priya Palanivel are both accredited under Resolution’s Specialist Accreditation scheme as specialist family lawyers with specific expertise in complex financial and property matters (high-income households and substantial assets).
Sheridans has a specialist family team which provides advice in all aspects of family law, within a leading media, entertainment and technology law firm. We understand our clients’ needs for discretion, personal and bespoke advice in order to manage highly sensitive family cases.
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‘The group’s particular expertise lies in advising wealthy individuals on issues such as matrimonial finance and private law children matters frequently with an international dimension.’
Sheridans is a leading media and technology law firm whose lawyers combine in-depth legal and commercial knowledge with breadth of expertise and experience to give unparalleled advice to their clients.