Family Divorce Law – Ancillary Relief: What is it?

According to the 2017 UK Office and National Statistics figures on divorce, 42% of marriages end in divorce. Although this could be a long and expensive process, there are ways for parties to reach a financial settlement.

Most couples agree or negotiate through mediation or solicitors in order to reach a financial settlement without taking the matter to the Court. If no agreement is reached or if you do not agree on everything, you have the possibility to ask the Court to take a decision regarding anything you have not agreed upon.

However, you generally cannot go to Court unless you have tried mediation or any other forms of help. Some exceptions are made for applicants who have been victims of domestic abuse or if social services were involved.

If all the steps have been undertaken, you can apply to the court for a financial order. This financial settlement is also referred to as ancillary relief.

Before petitioning for the ancillary relief, you must have ensured that the paperwork for divorce of civil partnership termination have started and ensure that you have not yet applied for the decree absolute of the final order.

This ancillary relief will allow you to settle for some of the following examples:

  • Lump sum payment;
  • Property ownership;
  • Child maintenance;
  • A share of your ex-partner’s pension.

If you have decided to apply for the ancillary relief, your solicitor will complete the Form A, indicating the type of financial relief you seek, and have it sent to court on your behalf.

You will then be required to attend a first appointment hearing where your financial assets will be disclosed.

Under the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1973, “the court must have regard to the income, earning capacity, property, and other financial resources in order to make any financial order.” 

You must thus provide your solicitor with any information you may have regarding your financial status, to draft the Financial Statement, also called Form E. You will have to provide information such as your bank details and statements, insurance policies, personal belongings worth more than £500, etc.

It is important that both parties provide a “full and fair disclosure” to achieve a fair settlement. This will enable both parties to analyse their partner’s situation and think clearly about what they wish to claim as a financial settlement.

Once the forms have been sent, the parties will have to attend an appointment at court where the claims and documents will be discussed. Following the meeting, the District Judge will give directions or request some more documents. A Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing (FDRH) date will then be fixed by the Judge to discuss and negotiate the ancillary relief.

However, although it is rarely the case, if there has been full financial disclosure at the first appointment, the Judge can sometimes consider it as the FDRH and will then try to settle for an agreement by discussing your assets.

If at this point, an agreement is reached, the solicitors will prepare a draft Court Order that will need to be approved by the District Judge.

In cases where no agreement has been reached, the Court will list the matter for a final hearing, where sometimes a valuation expert is required to assess the assets, enabling the Court to consider the question of costs.

Solicitors are always working to try and reach a settlement in the best interests of the their client to try and keep legal costs down in the case going all the way to a Final Hearing, but sometimes this is unavoidable.

If you wish to know more about ancillary relief or need any help with the process, we would be happy to offer you a free 20-minute appointment to discuss your case and advise you on the next steps.

References:

https://www.gov.uk/money-property-when-relationship-ends/apply-for-a-financial-order

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/divorce/bulletins/divorcesinenglandandwales/2017#what-percentage-of-marriages-end-in-divorce

By Isabelle Ponnoussamy

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