16th April 2024|In Latest News, Divorce & Separation

Understanding Your Financial Rights in a Separation: A Guide for UK Families

Navigating through a separation can be a challenging time, particularly when it comes to understanding your financial rights and planning for the future. This blog post aims to provide a clear and comprehensive guide to help you understand your financial rights during a separation in the UK.

Financial Planning During Separation

One of the most crucial steps during a separation is establishing a sound financial plan. This plan should address both immediate needs during the separation and long-term financial implications. Understanding your financial rights is a key part of this process.

Financial Rights for Unmarried or Non-Civil Partners

If you are not married or in a civil partnership, your financial rights are primarily limited to areas where you can claim ownership. For instance, if you co-own a property or have joint investments or bank accounts, you may claim up to 50% of the capital. In essence, your financial rights are the same as they would be if you had no romantic or cohabiting relationship with your partner.

However, there is an important exception when children are involved. Under the Children Act 1989, the court can impose an order serving the child’s “best interests”, which may include maintenance payments from one party to another.

Financial Rights for Married or Civil Partners

Married individuals or those in a civil partnership have significantly more extensive financial rights. The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and the Civil Partnership Act 2004 provide a framework of rights in the event of separation or divorce. These rights include claims to pensions, property, and capital, which encompasses stocks, shares, businesses, cash, and more.

The division of assets accumulated during the marriage typically begins with a fifty-fifty split. However, family lawyers and the court will consider key factors outlined in section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act to determine if this is appropriate for each individual case.

Division of Assets and Family Circumstances

In situations where assets are unevenly distributed between parties in a separation, the division of assets is guided by the family’s circumstances and the ability of each party to meet their needs and fulfil their financial obligations.

Consider, for example, a family with children where one parent provides the majority of the care (e.g., the children live with one parent for five days of the week and the other for two). In such cases, the financial split may reflect the fact that one party incurs more expenses related to the children’s care, such as food, transportation, and clothing.

Pre- and Post-Matrimonial Assets

Courts may also consider pre- and post-matrimonial assets, also known as “non-matrimonial” assets. Pre-matrimonial assets are those owned by one party before the relationship began, while post-matrimonial assets are those acquired after separation.

Generally, these non-matrimonial assets are excluded from separation agreements. However, exceptions exist. For instance, an asset owned before the relationship may be considered matrimonial over time in long-term relationships. Similarly, an asset can become “mingled” if it becomes intertwined with the family’s life, such as a holiday home initially owned by one party but later used regularly by the family.

Making a Financial Claim

It’s crucial to understand that financial claims aren’t automatically initiated. They commence when you apply for a divorce or terminate a civil partnership and must be concluded by a court order, either a consent order or a judge’s decision. During the separation process, both parties maintain the right to reside in the family home. In fact, it’s common for both parties to continue living together post-separation while they await the sale of the property and the subsequent division of the proceeds.

In conclusion, understanding your financial rights during a separation is crucial. It’s always advisable to seek legal advice to ensure your rights are protected and your financial future is secure. Remember, every situation is unique, and what works for one family may not work for another. Stay informed, seek advice, and take care of your financial health during this challenging time.

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