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How divorce affects the family business

A family business will differ significantly from the other assets that are valued and shared during a divorce settlement. The business often provides the family with a certain standard of living and the business and financial security of both spouses can be put at risk if matters are not handled in the right way.

As an accredited Resolution expert in complex divorce and finance cases, I cannot stress enough how important it is to seek urgent legal advice whenever a family business is involved in a divorce settlement.

We can’t cover every challenge and pitfall in this article but these are some common questions we hear from clients.

Do I have a right to a share of the family business when we divorce?

Business interests are considered along with other marital assets such as the family home, even if the business was started before marriage and even if it is not in joint names. The courts will not necessarily grant a greater share to the party responsible for building the business up. Credit may be given to a spouse who looked after the home and children to allow the other to devote more time to the family business.

Our role is to make sure the division of business interests is fair and reasonable. We prefer, where possible, to agree a settlement out of court because once the case is in front of a judge it can be very difficult to control the outcome. The court may even order the business to be sold and the capital split.

Once we know your precise circumstances and personal priorities we will be able to discuss the options with you in detail and help you achieve the best possible outcome.

How can I sustain myself financially if my career has been within my husband’s business?

When a husband and wife have been working in a business together, divorce can affect both their future earnings. A key concern will be whether it is feasible for one of them to continue running the business and if enough capital is available to “buy out” the other.

In such situations our technical knowledge allows us to conduct careful and informed negotiations in order to agree a fair settlement for everyone involved. This might mean one partner retains ownership and pays the other spousal maintenance, or that borrowings are used to create a lump sum payment. There are a number of possibilities and we can talk these through with you.

How can I protect my family’s business from divorce?

Divorce can have implications for other members of the family who are involved in running the business. Their priority, and ours, will be to ensure the business itself is not affected. This might involve using other assets for a settlement in order to protect the business, or agreeing stepped payments from the business to protect cash flow and enable it to continue trading effectively. There are a number of options.

 

Andrew Meehan is individually recommended for family law by both Chambers 2018 (York, Hull and surrounds region) and the Legal 500 2017 (Leeds/West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire region).

He is also the only Resolution accredited specialist solicitor in Harrogate for divorce cases involving complex financial and property matters.

 

This article has been prepared with the aim of providing general information only and does not constitute legal advice in relation to any particular situation. While we aim to ensure that the information is correct at the date on which it is added to the website, the legal position can change frequently, and content will not always be updated following any relevant changes. In addition, everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be relied upon. If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing enquiries@harrogatefamilylaw.co.uk. Harrogate Family Law accepts no liability whatsoever in contract, tort or otherwise for any loss or damage caused by or arising directly or indirectly in connection with any use or reliance on the contents of any part of our website, except to the extent that such liability cannot be excluded by law.

 

Staying friends with your ex; is it really possible? Read our co-parenting tips

When a relationship breaks down, staying friends with your ex might seem an impossibility. It depends on individual circumstances and the reasons for separating, of course, but some people do manage to achieve an amicable relationship. The Duke and Duchess of York are perhaps one of the best-known couples who have remained friends despite divorcing after 10 years of marriage. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin remain on friendly terms after they ‘consciously uncoupled’ in 2014.

So, what’s the secret to staying friends with your ex after the emotional rollercoaster of a divorce. There are no right and wrong answers and for many people it takes time to heal and establish a new and platonic relationship. Divorcees who manage to set aside their differences and put the interests of the children first can end up staying friends. Co-parenting isn’t always easy but together you can still achieve the very best for your children.

Here are a few tips:

Set boundaries

It’s important to stick to any shared childcare agreements and financial arrangements. Share routines, schedules, school home work and make sure your child has got access to everything they need so both homes feel comfortable and secure.

Support one another

Be positive about each other’s parenting styles and use positive or neutral language if you are talking about your ex-partner in front of your child. Ensuring there is mutual respect on both sides will go a long way when it comes to dealing with any issues that may arise.

Share responsibility

Both of you should be involved when it comes to any life-changing or important decisions. If you are both on board, it will avoid mixed messages and confusion in the future.

Communicate

Avoid misunderstandings by communicating effectively. Remember texts and emails can be misinterpreted so often it’s better to pick up the phone or talk face to face. Make sure you have both got access to school-related information.

Family life will inevitably change following a divorce: it marks the end of one chapter of the relationship and in some cases another chapter begins. Divorcees can go onto achieve very positive co-parenting arrangements and stay on good terms in the process.

 

Andrew Meehan is individually recommended for family law by both Chambers UK and the Legal 500. He is also a Resolution accredited specialist solicitor for divorce cases involving complex financial and property matters.

 

This article has been prepared with the aim of providing general information only and does not constitute legal advice in relation to any particular situation. While we aim to ensure that the information is correct at the date on which it is added to the website, the legal position can change frequently, and content will not always be updated following any relevant changes. In addition, everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be relied upon. If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing enquiries@harrogatefamilylaw.co.uk. Harrogate Family Law accepts no liability whatsoever in contract, tort or otherwise for any loss or damage caused by or arising directly or indirectly in connection with any use or reliance on the contents of any part of our website, except to the extent that such liability cannot be excluded by law.

What are the risks when you delay making a financial claim in divorce proceedings?

A common misconception in divorce is that a financial claim cannot be made once a Decree Absolute has been granted. In reality there is no limitation period for bringing a financial claim after divorce and there have been a number of very high profile cases recently where financial claims have been brought many years after the marriage had ended.

Aside from the stress and inconvenience of having to revisit your divorce settlement years down the line, there are a number of other reasons for making sure all the loose ends are tied up during the divorce process.

A cautionary tale

Mr and Mrs B had been married for 18 years before separating. A Decree Absolute was granted in 2005 but there were no financial orders made at the time.

Eight years later Mrs B applied to the court for a financial order. During that time Mr B had continued to operate his business, which formed part of the marital assets. Mr B argued that an agreement had been reached in 2005 when they divorced. Mrs B claimed that she had been waiting for Mr B to clarify his financial situation before making a claim. The judge found that she had suffered intimidation at the time, with Mr B refusing to respond to her requests for financial disclosure.

The family court judge found in favour of Mrs B and Mr B took the case to the Court of Appeal, claiming that the judge had been wrong to conclude that an agreement had not been reached in 2005, that the delay in bringing the claim should be a factor and that consideration had not been given to his contribution to his business since the divorce. He was also concerned that the delayed financial claim did not take into account the value of assets at the time of separation. Mr B lost his appeal.

What constitutes an enforceable agreement?

In order to finalise a financial agreement both parties need to fully disclose their financial affairs. This is important because without this transparency there is no way of knowing for sure what each party is entitled to and what constitutes a fair division of assets.

Many couples believe they have agreed a settlement when in fact it may be dependent on full and frank disclosure being provided. Without full disclosure the agreement is open to challenge at a later date. If one party has gone on to build a successful business or to generate significant wealth, the value of the settlement could be much higher than it would have been at the time of divorce.

Why should a stay at home spouse be entitled to a share of the other’s business after divorce?

The family courts value the contributions of homemaker and breadwinner equally which means that a stay at home husband or wife may be entitled to a share of their spouse’s business assets even if they have never worked in that business or contributed directly to its success.

Taking into account recent court cases, a delayed financial claim tends to look at the value of the assets at the time of the claim. This is because the judge considers that the stay at home spouse’s share of the business has been instrumental in the running of the business since divorce and its value has been put at risk by the failure to reach a settlement sooner. The courts may decide to reduce the claimant’s share, however, to take into account the delay in issuing the claim, particularly if it is made many years after the Decree Absolute.

Does it make a difference if a lump sum has been paid at the time of divorce?

The amount of the lump sum will be taken into consideration, as will the length of the delay, but it does not prevent a claim being made for full financial provision unless it has been paid as part of a financial order following full disclosure.

How to avoid delayed claims

We would always advise that financial matters are clarified and settled during the divorce process and this involves both parties participating in full financial disclosure.

Delayed claims can cause financial and emotional hardship for one or both parties and the share received by the claimant can be significantly reduced by the courts if there is a prolonged delay.

There is often a reluctance to be fully open about finances but if anything is left hidden it risks being disclosed at a later date when its value could have increased significantly. It is far better to agree a fair settlement at the time of divorce in the knowledge that future financial claims cannot be issued.

 

 

Andrew Meehan is individually recommended for family law by both Chambers 2015 (York, Hull and surrounds region) and the Legal 500 2016 (Leeds/West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire region).

He is also the only Resolution accredited specialist solicitor in Harrogate for divorce cases involving complex financial and property matters.

 

This article has been prepared with the aim of providing general information only and does not constitute legal advice in relation to any particular situation. While we aim to ensure that the information is correct at the date on which it is added to the website, the legal position can change frequently, and content will not always be updated following any relevant changes. In addition, everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be relied upon. If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing enquiries@harrogatefamilylaw.co.uk. Harrogate Family Law accepts no liability whatsoever in contract, tort or otherwise for any loss or damage caused by or arising directly or indirectly in connection with any use or reliance on the contents of any part of our website, except to the extent that such liability cannot be excluded by law.

5 Assets People Forget to Split in a Divorce

When divorcing couples talk about splitting their assets they’re usually referring to the family home. Admittedly this will be a big part of the settlement but there could be a lot more up for grabs if you know where to look.

1. Pensions

Countless wives have lost out on hundreds of thousands of pounds in the past because their solicitors didn’t claim a share of their husband’s pension. We have specialist knowledge in this area and experience has shown that the value of a pension can be higher than that of the marital home.

2. Investments

We’re not talking about simple savings accounts here. Most people will know about those already and will have factored them in. The things that often go unnoticed are stocks and shares, insurance policies, brokerage accounts, employee share schemes and other similar incentives and benefits. Our in-house forensic accountant looks at all this in detail for our clients to make sure we haven’t missed anything.

3. Heirlooms

Your may have never liked your spouse’s antique vase or collection of rare stamps but now is the time to get them valued. They could contribute quite significantly to the asset pot.

4. Businesses

Business interests should be considered as part of the family assets, even if the business was started prior to your marriage. The business doesn’t need to be in joint names to be considered and the courts are likely to take into account the contribution made by a spouse who has looked after the home and children whilst the other has built up the company.

5. Inheritance

Inheritance is a complex area and fact-specific. For example, money that has been left to one spouse very recently and has been left intact in a separate account might not be shared in some circumstances. However, you may have a claim to it as well as to inherited money that has been held in an account that has been used for family expenses, or property that has been transferred to joint names or used for the benefit of the family as a whole, even if these were originally bequeathed to your spouse.

Finally … Have you valued the assets accurately?

Asset valuation is complex and there can be several ways to way certain assets. Depending on how valuation has been approached, the figures are not always accurate and fair. We work very closely with property valuers, financial advisers and actuaries with expertise in pension valuation and specialist accountants who can assess business interests accurately and make sure tax issues have been taken into account.

We are also highly experienced in uncovering assets that have been hidden or undisclosed. This is really important because it’s very difficult to revisit a settlement once it has been agreed by the courts and you could end up missing out on money that will help you build a more secure future for you and your family.

Andrew Meehan is individually recommended for family law by both Chambers UK and the Legal 500. He is also a Resolution accredited specialist solicitor for divorce cases involving complex financial and property matters.

This article has been prepared with the aim of providing general information only and does not constitute legal advice in relation to any particular situation. While we aim to ensure that the information is correct at the date on which it is added to the website, the legal position can change frequently, and content will not always be updated following any relevant changes. In addition, everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be relied upon. If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing enquiries@harrogatefamilylaw.co.uk. Harrogate Family Law accepts no liability whatsoever in contract, tort or otherwise for any loss or damage caused by or arising directly or indirectly in connection with any use or reliance on the contents of any part of our website, except to the extent that such liability cannot be excluded by law.

The end of a marriage? 7 tell-tale signs

In our experience it’s rarely one thing that signals the end of a marriage. Rather than a monumental argument, it’s likely to be a gradual build-up of problems and issues over a period of time.

Having advised clients on separation and divorce over a number of years, we’ve compiled a list of seven tell-tale signs that a marriage is no longer working.

1. Spending time apart

If you’re spending more time away from your spouse, effectively running parallel lives, then you might want to ask yourself why. If it’s because you actually enjoy spending time apart and feel a sense of relief when you’re away from your partner, then it might be a sign that you’re coming to the end of a marriage.

2. Lack of responsibility

Dealing with infidelity during a marriage or relationship will undoubtedly be hard, but it can be overcome with professional help. However if there is no remorse or acceptance on behalf of the person who has cheated, then it will be virtually impossible to move forward.

3. Disinterest

If your partner is no longer interested in what you’re doing to the point of being disdainful, then it’s a sign that something isn’t right. Similarly if your partner is no longer the first person you want to share something with, it may be worth considering when and why this changed.

4. Communication

Aside from the day-to-day talk about what’s for dinner and who’s picking up the kids from school, relationships thrive on good, open communication. But it’s the meaningful conversations that count – being able to share problems and dreams without fear of being judged. When you’re no longer really talking with your partner, feelings of emptiness and loneliness will start to appear and the connection and emotional bond you once had is likely to go.

5. Is the grass always greener?

If you’ve been going through a particularly tricky period of conflict, you might already be imagining a life without your spouse, where you feel happier, less stressed and more energised. If this is the case, then it’s a sign that you’ve emotionally already left the marriage.

6. Giving up

It might be that your partner refuses to go to counselling or won’t even talk through your problems. If one of you has already given up on the marriage, then you won’t be able to save it single-handedly. And even if you do go to couples counselling, if one of you really doesn’t want to make the marriage work, then it’s time to walk away.

7. Lack of physical contact

A lack of any physical contact between you and your husband or wife should start alarm bells ringing. Little intimacies, such as kissing, holding hands and cuddling, go a long way in helping a marriage survive and ensure you both feel loved and supported.

Andrew Meehan is individually recommended for family law by both Chambers UK and the Legal 500. He is also a Resolution accredited specialist solicitor for divorce cases involving complex financial and property matters.

This article has been prepared with the aim of providing general information only and does not constitute legal advice in relation to any particular situation. While we aim to ensure that the information is correct at the date on which it is added to the website, the legal position can change frequently, and content will not always be updated following any relevant changes. In addition, everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be relied upon. If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing enquiries@harrogatefamilylaw.co.uk. Harrogate Family Law accepts no liability whatsoever in contract, tort or otherwise for any loss or damage caused by or arising directly or indirectly in connection with any use or reliance on the contents of any part of our website, except to the extent that such liability cannot be excluded by law.

Valuing the contribution of a homemaker in a divorce

When it comes to deciding how wealth will be split in a divorce settlement, the law is quite clear that there must be no discrimination between breadwinner and homemaker.

How is the contribution of a homemaker valued?

Although the Office of National Statistics has created an online calculator in an effort to put a value against unpaid work such as childcare, cooking and cleaning, in a divorce case the courts will look at the contribution from many angles, including the sacrifice of career progression and future earning potential.

Whilst the majority of homemakers are women, we are dealing with an increasing number of divorce cases involving female breadwinners whose husbands have taken time out of their careers to look after the home and family. Whatever the gender of the homemaker, the principle remains the same and contributions towards a marriage must not be valued in monetary terms alone.  The role of a spouse who has dedicated a large part of his or her married life to looking after the home and caring for children is regarded as equal to that of the main income earner.

What can a spouse do to protect themselves if they have no income?

It can be terrifying to face divorce when you have no income of your own. You may hold back from seeking legal advice because you are not sure how you will pay for it. You are also likely to be concerned about the future financial security of you and your children.

Your position as homemaker makes it more important than ever to have an experienced family lawyer on your side who can explain your rights and negotiate a fair outcome for you and your family.

As well as making sure your contribution as homemaker is properly taken into account, your solicitor will also be able to secure interim financial support to meet the cost of things such as household bills, children’s extra-curricular activities and legal expenses.

In our experience spouses who have taken on the role of homemaker often neglect to put themselves first in a divorce. It’s our job to look out for them and this includes spotting areas that could reduce their settlement if they are not handled correctly. As pension specialists, for example, we make sure the breadwinner’s pension pot has been valued accurately. We also verify the valuations of property, business interests and other assets.

We cannot stress strongly enough how important it is for homemakers to have this kind of expert advice early on in the divorce process. Most cases are settled out of court these days which means agreements tend to be reached through negotiation rather than by a judge. We will act in the best interests of you and your family to make sure your contribution to the marriage is recognised and your financial future is secure.

Andrew Meehan is individually recommended for family law by both Chambers UK and the Legal 500. He is also a Resolution accredited specialist solicitor for divorce cases involving complex financial and property matters.

This article has been prepared with the aim of providing general information only and does not constitute legal advice in relation to any particular situation. While we aim to ensure that the information is correct at the date on which it is added to the website, the legal position can change frequently, and content will not always be updated following any relevant changes. In addition, everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be relied upon. If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing enquiries@harrogatefamilylaw.co.uk. Harrogate Family Law accepts no liability whatsoever in contract, tort or otherwise for any loss or damage caused by or arising directly or indirectly in connection with any use or reliance on the contents of any part of our website, except to the extent that such liability cannot be excluded by law.

 

How to obtain a clean break on divorce

Divorcing couples are becoming increasingly aware that it is in their best interests to obtain a clean break when they split up. This is to prevent any future claims on either party’s wealth or earnings and can be agreed at the time of divorce.

What is a clean break and how do I get one?

A clean break effectively draws a line under the division of assets when a couple divorces, preventing the parties from making any future claims on each other’s property, income or pensions at a later date.

A “consent order” is made by a judge in divorce proceedings, where both parties have agreed their financial settlement and consent to an order being made. This can be done  without the need for a court hearing.

The parties file a draft of the consent order containing the terms of their financial settlement, together with a brief financial statement that sets out their current financial position.

The papers then go before a judge who will look at the order to see if it acceptable legally. If the judge accepts the order, it is then approved and sent to the parties to implement.

The order becomes legally binding when the Decree Absolute has been granted in the divorce proceedings.

Why should I secure a consent order?

When a couple marries, this automatically gives them a right to claim financial provision from the other in the event that their marriage breaks down. Even if you don’t have many assets at the time of your divorce, it is still important to get a clean break because your spouse’s ability to claim for financial provision from you can continue to exist even after you have divorce.

One recent high profile case (Wyatt v Vince) involved a woman who made a financial claim against her ex-husband who had been penniless when they were together but had made a multi-million pound fortune after their divorce.

They divorced in 1992 and the case was heard by the Supreme Court more than two decades later.

A clean break order prevents the possibility of such future financial claims.

When a clean break may not be suitable

There are situations where one spouse has given up a career to bring up the couple’s children and may still have childcare responsibilities that prevent them returning to work.

A clean break is still possible in such cases but may be deferred, for example until the children reach a certain age.

In some situations a wife who has spent many years looking after home and family may never be able to achieve the income levels required to maintain her current standard of living.

In these cases it may not be in the best interests of her to have a complete clean break but it is still important to get a financial settlement ratified by the court so that it is binding on the parties.

Making sure of a clean break

If a clean break is appropriate for your circumstances then the only way to guarantee that there are no future claims made against you by your former spouse or civil partner is to get a court order. Without this, there is always a possibility that you could be faced with a claim for financial provision such as maintenance or lump sum orders. Only an order submitted to court and approved by a judge can protect you against this situation. It is usually straightforward to put in place and could save considerable uncertainty and legal expense in future.

How to get a consent order

A consent order is a legal document that should be drafted by an experienced legal professional to ensure it is legally binding.

There are specific rules as to how an order should be drafted and what can and cannot be included in one.

The consent order can be applied for once the Decree Nisi has been granted in the divorce proceedings and not before.

How we can help

A consent order is binding and if one party is suggesting it, the other should seek proper legal advice from an experienced family solicitor in case there is anything pending that could affect the value of the couple’s assets.

If the order is made without securing accurate valuations of property, pensions and business interests, one spouse could miss out on a fair settlement and will not have the option to renegotiate at a later date.

Here at Harrogate Family Law we can assist you in compiling all relevant financial details and records prior to presenting a consent order for ratification by the courts.

We believe in bringing a positive and cost-effective contribution to your divorce settlement by offering outstanding advice on separation and divorce law.

 

Andrew Meehan is individually recommended for family law by both Chambers UK and the Legal 500. He is also a Resolution accredited specialist solicitor for divorce cases involving complex financial and property matters.

This article has been prepared with the aim of providing general information only and does not constitute legal advice in relation to any particular situation. While we aim to ensure that the information is correct at the date on which it is added to the website, the legal position can change frequently, and content will not always be updated following any relevant changes. In addition, everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be relied upon. If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing enquiries@harrogatefamilylaw.co.uk. Harrogate Family Law accepts no liability whatsoever in contract, tort or otherwise for any loss or damage caused by or arising directly or indirectly in connection with any use or reliance on the contents of any part of our website, except to the extent that such liability cannot be excluded by law.

How to pay your divorce costs

The cost of seeking expert legal advice can be such a concern for some people that they delay going to a solicitor until they absolutely have to. This is completely understandable, particularly at a time when your future financial security is so uncertain, but the issue of how you pay your divorce costs is something we can help you with and it shouldn’t stop you getting the support you need. The sooner you get expert legal advice, the better.

How we help with divorce costs

We will give you clear, detailed information about the likely level of fees right at the start. We can agree to cap fees at a certain level and we regularly review divorce costs with you. Your first half hour with us is free and gives you an opportunity to discuss your priorities and concerns and understand how we will help you. After that, we believe the best way to limit legal costs is to secure a quick settlement and to avoid going to court wherever possible. Our experience, and our use of the latest technology, mean that the service you receive from us is efficient and represents real value for money.

Funding options

If you are unable to pay your legal fees from savings or income we can discuss a number of other funding options with you and introduce you to our expert contacts who can help. You may have family or friends who are willing to give you an interest free loan. If you do borrow money from family and friends, make sure you mention it to us as we will be able to help you draw up a formal agreement that will be taken into consideration when negotiating your settlement.

Investing in good legal advice

Some people may choose to negotiate their own financial settlement and only consult a solicitor to handle the legal paperwork and finalise what has been agreed. However, even cases that appear simple and straightforward can throw up difficulties and it’s easy to miss something important. For that reason we always encourage clients to think about their legal costs as an investment. We make sure that the money you spend on legal fees is used to secure the financial settlement you deserve and to make life after divorce as secure as possible for you.

If you or your spouse have pensions, business interests, trusts, property portfolios or inherited assets, it’s crucial that you each seek advice from a specialist family solicitor. These assets can be valued in different ways and it is vital to ensure that they have been valued accurately and fairly.  A firm like ours has lots of experience in checking that assets have been fairly valued. If the valuations are not carried out thoroughly and correctly then you could miss out on hundreds of thousands of pounds that you should be entitled to. It’s important to get it right first time because it can be very difficult if not impossible to persuade a judge to look at a case again if it turns out that assets were not valued fairly at the time of the divorce settlement.

Andrew Meehan is individually recommended for family law by both Chambers UK and the Legal 500. He is also a Resolution accredited specialist solicitor for divorce cases involving complex financial and property matters.

This article has been prepared with the aim of providing general information only and does not constitute legal advice in relation to any particular situation. While we aim to ensure that the information is correct at the date on which it is added to the website, the legal position can change frequently, and content will not always be updated following any relevant changes. In addition, everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be relied upon. If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing enquiries@harrogatefamilylaw.co.uk. Harrogate Family Law accepts no liability whatsoever in contract, tort or otherwise for any loss or damage caused by or arising directly or indirectly in connection with any use or reliance on the contents of any part of our website, except to the extent that such liability cannot be excluded by law.

How to divorce when you run a family business together

Divorce can be difficult no matter the circumstances but when you run a family business together, there are even more complications. It’s important to consider what are the best options for you and your family business if your marriage comes to an end.

There are many compelling reasons for seeking legal advice early when couples make the decision to divorce and this is particularly true when business interests are involved.

Find common ground

It may be possible, with support from your solicitor, to reach an amicable resolution covering how the business relationship will be resolved. Where possible and with careful negotiation, this is often the best way forward. We prefer, where possible, to agree a settlement out of court because the Judges have a wide range of discretion and the outcome can be unpredictable.  It is far better to have a negotiated settlement which both parties know will work for them. In some cases, ex couples decide to continue to run the family business together and are able to maintain a good working relationship. This is not always possible, of course, and there are other options when deciding on the future of the business.

Split the assets

Without previous legal documentations such as a pre or post nuptial agreement, the starting point in divorce proceedings is to look at whether an equal split of assets is fair. An equal split is not inevitable though. We will always discuss your individual circumstances with you to try and achieve the best possible outcome. If one partner has had a more active role in the business, this can lead to further issues.  The courts may not, for example, grant a bigger share because you were the person who established or spent more time building up the business. Any agreements that have been previously drawn up specifying who owns what shares and documenting loans, for example, could play an important part in any negotiations or proceedings.

Buy out

If the family business is to be split, one option might be to buy out your ex partner’s share. One partner may retain ownership and pay the other spousal maintenance, or borrowings could be used to make a lump sum payment. There are a number of possibilities and pitfalls and we would urge you to make an appointment to come and see us so that we can guide you through the process.

We would always advise, if you co-own a business with your spouse, to have precise legal documentation drawn up so that in the event of a divorce it is easier to achieve a fair settlement that reflects the contribution both partners have made.

 

How to get the divorce process started

1. Protecting your position

Before the divorce process can get underway our priority will be to protect your position by making sure your spouse does not dispose of or hide assets and avoiding setting any precedents that could reduce the amount of the settlement you ultimately receive. You should also think carefully before leaving the family home as this could make it more difficult to say that it should be sold or transferred to you in the longer term. If your spouse has moved out and you are left with the house and the children we will make sure you have enough money to pay your bills.

2. Decide on the grounds for divorce

For a divorce to be granted you need to be able to demonstrate that your marriage has irretrievably broken down by giving one of five reasons. Three of these only apply if you have been separated for more than two years. Otherwise, the options are adultery (which can be difficult to prove) and unreasonable behaviour.  I find that the vast majority of people opt for unreasonable behaviour. The behaviour does not have to be extreme. Moves are being made to introduce “no fault” divorce where one person does not have to blame the other for the breakdown of the marriage but until that point couples have the best chance of remaining amicable if they don’t lay too much blame on the other party.

3. Be alert to the pitfalls

The sooner you can see a divorce solicitor, the better because each decision you make could have an impact on your future. Our legal knowledge and experience means we recognise the unique features in your case, spot potential problems and complications and take early action to iron out difficulties. Lawyers without our depth of experience may identify problems too late or miss them completely, costing you time, money and unnecessary stress.We will make sure that that you get a fair financial settlement. This will involve ensuring that your spouse has disclosed all of their assets and income.  Importantly, we will also ensure that the financial settlement is based on correct information in terms or making sure that the assets and income have been valued fairly; there are various different ways to value assets, so we will make sure that they have been properly valued and not understated. We will also alert you to other pitfalls and factors that might have financial implications such as tax and will use our skill and experience to negotiate a fair financial settlement.

 4. Find a solicitor you feel comfortable with

Your solicitor will be supporting you through one of the most challenging times of your life and it’s important you find someone you have confidence in. Our aim is to put you at ease from the moment you walk into our offices. We understand that you are facing situations you never wanted or expected to face and it is our job to help you make the right decisions for you and your family. We will be on your side and are here to reduce the burden and worry of the coming months.

5. Acknowledgment of service

If your spouse has applied for a divorce you will receive a copy of the divorce petition in the post with an acknowledgment of service form. If you haven’t already sought legal advice you will need to do so quickly, before confirming receipt and within the time limit specified on the papers. Try not to focus on the details given to prove unreasonable behaviour. Look on this as a necessary measure to get the divorce process underway in the absence of a no fault divorce system.

 

Andrew Meehan is individually recommended for family law by both Chambers UK and the Legal 500. He is also a Resolution accredited specialist solicitor for divorce cases involving complex financial and property matters.

This article has been prepared with the aim of providing general information only and does not constitute legal advice in relation to any particular situation. While we aim to ensure that the information is correct at the date on which it is added to the website, the legal position can change frequently, and content will not always be updated following any relevant changes. In addition, everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be relied upon. If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing enquiries@harrogatefamilylaw.co.uk. Harrogate Family Law accepts no liability whatsoever in contract, tort or otherwise for any loss or damage caused by or arising directly or indirectly in connection with any use or reliance on the contents of any part of our website, except to the extent that such liability cannot be excluded by law.

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