No-fault divorce has made things easier, but don’t forget about the finances

No fault divorce was introduced in April this year, and this together with the online portal has made it much easier for people to get divorced without using a solicitor.

When people come to see me for some initial advice about getting divorced I always give them the option to do the actual divorce part themselves, telling them that if they want to do this through the online portal they can save themselves some legal fees.

Where people really need advice and help is when it comes to dividing the finances which is something that is very difficult for people to do properly without the help of a solicitor.

People are often surprised when I tell them that even after they are divorced their spouse still has financial claims against them if they don’t obtain a financial order.  This means that even if the house has been sold and the proceeds divided between them, their spouse could still make financial claims against them at any point in the future, for example for a share of their house or a share of their pension.

These claims can be prevented by there being a formal financial agreement set out in an order, signed by the separated couple and sent to the Court for approval.  This can dismiss all future claims, and then both people are free to do whatever they want financially without any worries that any financial claims may be made. So in almost all circumstances we advise people to obtain a financial agreement at the time of divorce.

That is the advice I provide to my clients, but what about people who take no legal advice at all? Since no fault divorce and the online portal were introduced, there could be many people who do the divorce themselves, sell the house and divide the proceeds without knowing that financial claims against them are open indefinitely. It might never be a problem if no one makes any claims in the future, and this will be the case in many cases, but when people are made aware that there is the option of dismissing all future financial claims, they usually take it to provide themselves with certainty and security for the future.

For many divorcing couples, the split of assets seems straightforward. It means sharing property and personal possessions, and maybe working out maintenance fees for children. But a lot of people are unaware that there are many other assets – including savings, shares, pensions and even inherited wealth – which can all be brought into play. 

For instance, recent statistics show that seven in 10 divorces don’t share pensions as a matrimonial asset, despite them often being worth more than property. With a man’s pension being worth £130,000 on average, it means that thousands of women miss out on more than £1 billion every year, and could face poverty in their autumn years.