Understanding Ancillary Relief

The range of orders that the Court can make to resolve the financial status of parties to a divorce is known as Ancillary Relief

What does the Court take in consideration

Section 25 Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 sets out the factors a court will consider when making an Order.

The first consideration is given to the welfare of any child of the family who has not reached the age of 18 years.

In addition, the Court is required to have regard to the following matters:

  • a) The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each of the parties of the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future, including in the case of earning capacity, any increase in that capacity which it would in the opinion of the Court be reasonable to expect a party to a marriage to take steps to acquire.
  • b) The financial needs, obligations, responsibilities which each of he parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future.
  • c) The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage.
  • d) The age of each party to the marriage and duration of the marriage.
  • e) Any physical or mental disability of the parties of the marriage.
  • f) The contributions which each of the parties has made, or is likely to make in the foreseeable future to the welfare of the family, including any contribution by looking after the home or by caring for the family.
  • g) The conduct of each of the parties if that conduct is such that it would be, in the opinion of the court, inequitable to disregard it.
  • h) In the case of proceedings for divorce or nullity of marriage, the value to each of the parties to the marriage of any benefit which, by reason of the dissolution or annulment of the marriage, that party will lose the chance of acquiring.

What Orders can the Court make?

The Court can make a wide range of orders tailored to the circumstances of each case, but they include:

  • Maintenance payments
  • Lump sum orders
  • Property adjustment orders
  • Pension sharing or attachment orders

If they are able to, parties can agree the terms of their financial statement without recourse to the Court and even prior to either party petitioning for divorce. However some financial orders can only take effect after Decree Nisi or Decree Absolute

.

When parties are unable to agree the terms of their financial settlement they require a Judge to decide for them. These proceedings are private.

What is the procedure if parties cannot agree?

Either party can make an application to the Court using a Form A. Once such an application has been made the Court proceedings follow a standard timetable.

Each party has to complete a financial statement (Form E) and disclose documentary evidence including, for example:

  • Bank statements
  • Credit card statements
  • P60 and last three pay slips
  • Most recent tax return
  • Two years’ accounts
  • Mortgage redemption statement
  • Pension details
  • Assets held by third parties

Parties have a duty to be open and honest in disclosing their financial matters. If it is subsequently found that either party has not been "full and frank" in their disclosure the Court can overturn or revisit a financial settlement.

What will happen at Court?

The first hearing is called the First Directions Appointment (FDA) where the Judge will decide on what disclosure requests are reasonable, whether valuations are needed or whether any other orders are appropriate.

At the next hearing the Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR), the emphasis is on negotiation between the Parties. The Judge will offer assistance to the parties in order to conclude an agreement by advising them on what he or she considers an appropriate settlement. The parties are not obliged to follow the Judge's guidance but it may offer a good indication of what a Court would order. If the parties do not agree at the FDR then the matter is listed for final hearing.

At the final hearing evidence will be called, which is likely to include cross examination of the parties and reference to financial documents. Following this the Court will make a decision.

I am an experienced Family Law barrister with detailed knowledge of making and resisting such applications. If you wish to instruct me under the Direct Access scheme please contact me.