Divorce is a process, beset by other processes. One of these (after you have agreed, amicably, of course, about residence and contact arrangements for the children of the family), is the process of dividing the assets acquired during the marriage. Whilst differing guidance applies depending on the length of the marriage and other factors, the emphasis on any such division is that it is fair. The Court can (and will) refuse to ratify any financial agreements that do not provide such settlement to either of the parties.
The bedrock of disclosure is the Affidavit of Means (AoM), a sworn document in which each party sets out their assets, income, and liabilities. The couple divorcing will agree to exchange AoMs on a set date, giving each side time to review the financial position of the other spouse.
It is important to understand that the other side (and the Court) must have full disclosure of finances to ensure a fair and realistic settlement. The AoM must be a true picture of all your assets and liabilities, wherever they are held in the world.
- Do seek independent legal advice, especially if your finances are especially high-value and complex.
- Do complete the AoM fully. No-one us helped by the phrases “to follow” or “unknown”.
- Do agree to obtain a valuation of any properties you own – if in doubt, you can each instruct an estate agent, or instruct an agent jointly.
- Do make sure that you have your ducks in a row – paperwork such as bank statements, mortgage statements, loan agreements, credit card statements and pay slips. The more orderly your supporting disclosure, the clearer your position will be.
- Do talk to your lawyer about mediation and financial dispute resolution as alternatives to the Court process.
- Do remember that the Court can re-consider matters afresh if there has, since finances were agreed, been a “material change of circumstances”. This can arise from an unexpected loss of employment, to receiving an inheritance, or if one of the parties become seriously ill.
- Don’t add to your legal bills by giving your lawyer an unsorted pile of documents – put them into order first.
- Don’t forget that ownership of properties can be checked with the Jersey and English land registries.
- Don’t obfuscate. Spreadsheets and financial reports should be clear and accurate.
- Don’t forget to tell the Income Tax Office, and Social Security, if you are separating.
- Don’t forget that the Court can re-open financial disclosure if one of the parties has been found to have hidden assets, or “forgotten” to disclose them.
- Don’t compare your divorce process and matrimonial finances with others – every divorce is different.
Above all, do try and stay amicable and calm. If financial disclosure is conducted properly and honestly, then it does not have to be a painful or confusing process. Believe it or not, lawyers are here to help you resolve matters, so that you can move on to the next stage of your life.