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How to deal with the financial fall-out of divorce

Your Money
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Your Money

The sooner you deal with the financial implications of divorce, the easier it will be on your pocket.

Dealing with the financial implications of breaking up can be hard when coupled with the emotional distress of going through a divorce.

But as two out of three new marriages are ending in divorce, the financial fall-out is important to think of too.

Steve Rees, managing director of debt consultant at Vincent Bond & C, runs us through the things worth considering when going your separate ways.

“THE THREE primary processes most of us go through in life can be summarised quite simply as ‘hatch, match and dispatch’, but for many Britons, there is an extra one in there – divorce.

If the ‘d’ word does enter your life, you need to think about your financial protection and understand the potential pitfalls, so you can set yourself up as well as you can for your future.

Let’s be clear here, divorce is expensive. Couples will find their finances are so interlinked that trying to unpick them is complicated, and it would be tough enough to achieve without the emotion that inevitably goes alongside a divorce.

At least if you are married or in a civil partnership there are specific laws to protect you. Couples who are not married have no such laws in place – a ‘common law’ husband or wife does not exist in law. It is a myth.

However, there are some things you can do to protect yourself, and the main one is to try to stay calm and reasonable. No matter how tempting it might be to point score, you are only going to stretch this process out and raise your costs. So if it is at all possible, try to work together to sort things out as painlessly as possible.

Every asset you have such as your home, investments, savings, pensions – including occupational pensions – cars, furniture and so on will need to be divided up between you. What you brought into the marriage may be taken into consideration, and a spouse’s ability to earn after a split will also count towards a final settlement.”

“The more you can agree between you sensibly, the easier and cheaper the process will be. Going back and forth through solicitors and to the courts drags the process out, and increases the bill, so the only people who win are the lawyers.

An important point is to remember not to use your lawyer as a therapist, because quite frankly, therapy is cheaper. Whenever you see your solicitor, write down what you want to talk about and keep to the point. Many solicitors will give you a first appointment for free, but get a schedule of charges so you know what your costs will be from that point onwards.

Remember, it is not wise to try to hide anything from your spouse. If you do everything fairly beforehand, usually the judge will simply accept your agreement as reasonable. But if you hide assets, there is a good chance you will end up losing more than you think. For example, Scot Young, the property tycoon, has been sent to jail for six months for contempt of court because he claimed he had lost a £400m fortune, but refused to prove how.

Of course, few of us will be in this position, but divorce changes a lot of things financially. You may, for the first time, be able to get benefits that you had not previously been entitled to, so it is worth checking with Citizens’ Advice. They can also help you to understand what you can expect from your spouse in terms of financial support – children you have together will get support, but not every ex-spouse is entitled to ongoing support.

Once you have dealt with everything you held jointly, including loans, credit cards, bank accounts and so on, you need to split your records at the credit reference agencies, to prevent your ex having an impact on your ability to borrow in the future.

Experian, Equifax and Call Credit will all need to be told that you have separated, so they can separate your records. It is something many people forget to do, but is an important final step.

Hopefully, you will never need to worry about a split, but if you do then make sure you are thinking about your finances at the earliest possible time.”