Do we have to go to court to get a financial settlement?
In short, no. There are many ways in which you and your spouse can reach a financial settlement on divorce, and going to court is just one of them. However, in order for a financial settlement to be “full and final” and provide the clean break which many couples want, it does need to be approved by the court. But, this won’t require you to go to court yourself and your solicitor can correspond with the court on your behalf.
When a couple divorce (or dissolve their civil partnership), they can ask the court to help them to decide how to divide and arrange their finances. This might involve deciding what to do with the house, or whether one of you should pay some maintenance to the other. For those couples who cannot reach agreement – with or without solicitors assisting them – the court can ultimately make a decision on their behalf which will be binding on them both. The idea that someone would make a binding decision on their behalf can put a lot of divorcing couples off going to court. They want to feel empowered to make their own decision. There is certainly some truth in the idea that you are more likely to stick to and accept a settlement which you have reached yourself.
Some couples will start off having discussions between themselves at home, perhaps with the assistance of a family member (maybe a parent) as an informal mediator. It’s sensible to speak to your solicitor alongside these discussions so that you know what the court may decide for your family, and so that you know that the proposals being made by your spouse are fair. If discussions at home stall, then your solicitor can write to your spouse’s solicitor, or you could try mediation.
When you do reach an agreement, your solicitor can assist with drafting the all-important Consent Order. This is the document which will give you the “full and final” settlement or clean break. Without this document (or a final order of the court following full court proceedings), your spouse could make further claims against you in the future so this document is key. When agreed, it’s sent off to the court, approved by a judge (who will first check that it is fair for your family) and returned with a court stamp. All without you needing to go anywhere near a court.
If you would like further information in relation to the contents of this post, or any aspect of family law, please contact Helen Fisher on 01892 506 258 or firstname.lastname@example.org.