Belfast Telegraph

Couples are counting the cost of divorce

By Naomi Devlin

The breakdown of a marriage is never easy, and it can be particularly stressful to deal with the important issue of sorting out matrimonial assets. It is, however, vital to protect yourself from the outset, and the sorting of finances should be done as soon as possible after the breakdown of a relationship.

Fortunately, this doesn't necessarily mean costly, lengthy and stressful court proceedings.

If both you and your spouse agree that the issue of finances needs to be resolved, then a matrimonial agreement could be the way forward.

A matrimonial agreement can resolve issues such as who should remain in the matrimonial home or whether it should be sold and the proceeds split. It can also deal with issues relating to any dependant children, such as residency and maintenance.

Each party will have to seek their own separate legal advice and there will have to be an exchange of financial information. Both parties will have to agree to full disclosure of this information to enable the agreement to be a valid agreement. Failure of one party to not disclose assets could result in a court later setting aside an agreement.

Information such as income, pensions, debts and any assets held in either party's sole name will have to be disclosed. Information such as the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities of the parties will be taken into account.

On foot of all documents being exchanged, negotiations can commence. Once the terms of the agreement have been settled, both parties must sign the written document in the presence of their respective solicitors, who will act as witnesses.

The signing of the matrimonial agreement has significant consequences for both parties. It aims to essentially sever all financial ties between spouses, to prevent either party making any future claims against each other. This is particularly important in relation to future inheritance a party may receive. It also has tax implications, as the parties can no longer claim the benefit of married couple's allowance.

The agreement can then be made a rule of court once divorce proceedings are issued, usually when the parties have been separated for a period of two years, and allows parties to address important financial issues promptly and without the additional expense and stress which can be caused by court proceedings.

Naomi Devlin is a solicitor in the family department at Worthingtons Solicitors. For advice, visit website or contact Naomi on 028 9181 1538 or 028 9043 4015

Belfast Telegraph