Expats and money on divorce

Updated: Apr 7, 2019

Divorce is about severing ties and starting over.  The people who do this most successfully think about their finances before they sign the divorce decree. However many people get divorced and then they deal with the consequences. 

Every marriage and divorce is different. There are no hard and fast rules regarding the division of assets on divorce. When dividing assets the Court, and solicitors will take account of various factors when advising their clients. These are known as Section 25 factors (Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973).

You might not need a lawyer or a financial adviser if your case is simple, but in many cases professional guidance and advice is required.

Alternatively you could negotiate through your divorce solicitors. This will involve instructing a divorce solicitor to act on your behalf. This can have many benefits. For example, a divorce solicitor can advise you on your legal entitlements, and can identify any anomalies that may indicate that your ex is hiding assets from you.

The law on divorce and dissolution varies around the UK. Depending on where you were each born and have lived in the past, you might be able to get divorced or dissolve your civil partnership in a different part of the UK to where you currently live.

You might also be able to get divorced or dissolve your civil partnership in a country outside of the UK if you or your ex-partner was born or lived there.

If you want to do this talk to a solicitor who specializes in international divorce or dissolution.

While divorce will for most people trigger enormous emotional and financial stress, separating without the formality of divorce can also be financially disastrous.

This was highlighted in a recent case concerning a couple married for only three weeks and separated for almost 30 years afterwards. Litigation is ongoing.

The marriage lasted barely a month in 1989. They then split and became estranged. The husband died in 2011 - something the wife discovered only last year when she hired investigators - and a dispute has resulted over her claim to some of the estate.

A judge ruled that as they were still married when the husband died she could indeed have a claim.

Some useful tips to help plan your finances if you're getting divorced

  • Make a List, Check It Twice

  • The first course of action in a pending divorce is to make a complete list of all assets. The simplest option is for spouses to make a list together that is honest and fair. Items that must be listed should include the home or any joint property, land , holiday homes, all vehicles, bank accounts, investment funds, stocks, bonds, shares, insurane policies, valuable collectibles, household items and so on.

  • Consider mediation

  • If you and your spouse can work together to reach a fair settlement on most or all of the issues in your divorce (eg child custody, child support, and property division), choosing mediation to resolve your divorce case may save thousands in legal fees and emotional aggravation. The mediation process involves a neutral third-party mediator that meets with the divorcing couple and helps them reach an agreement on the issues in their divorce. Mediation is completely voluntary; the mediator will not act as a judge, or insist on any particular outcome or agreement.

  • Beware emotional attachment

  • The marital residence, the pension you earned, a painting purchased during your marriage - these assets often bring an emotionally charged debate to divorce negotiations, which can impair good decision-making. Often, divorcing spouses that are attached to the family home don’t realize that they can't really afford. Yet, they fight tooth and nail to keep it, sometimes at the expense of retirement planning.

  • Try to be fair and equitable

  • When you are trying to reach a fair divorce settlement, you need to think about the future. What appears to be an equitable distribution of the marital assets and debts, may not be so fair in the long run. 

  • Create a post divorce budget

  • This is where you need to figure out your post-divorce budget. The part where you get to determine what you will have to live on once you are divorced. You are aware of what it takes to run the household now. What you need to know is what your costs of living will be after the divorce. Some people's incomes drop drastically after divorce. Its best you be prepared by building a budget now instead of being hit over the head with bills you can’t pay.

  • You will have to estimate some expenses but it is important so that you can have some idea of what you will need to survive in your new life. It is also important because it will influence how you negotiate your divorce settlement. You need to know what you will need financially in order to evaluate your settlement options or what you may ask for should your case go to court.

The Hardest Splits

These tend to be retirement benefits, the family home and and can also include a family business. Retirement benefits are another source of contention in many divorces. Many working spouses believe that the ownership of retirement benefits and plans belong to the individual, but this is not always the case. Retirement benefits may be considered marital property and the other spouse may be entitled to some portion of payment or value.

When a marriage or civil partnership ends, courts deal with the pension arrangements in one of 3 ways.

1. You’re given a percentage share of your former partner’s pension pot

This is known as pension sharing. The money that you get from the pension pot of your former spouse or civil partner is then legally treated as your money.

2. The value of a pension is offset against other assets

This is known as pension offsetting. For example: you keep your pension and your former spouse or civil partner keeps the home.

3. Some of your pension is paid to your former partner

This is known as pension attachment or sometimes pension earmarking. This is like a maintenance payment directly from one person’s pension pot to their former spouse or civil partner.

The splitting of pensionable assets can be complex and in many cases it is worth seeking the help of an financial adviser that has experience in dealing with pensions and divorce.

If you’re from the UK and thinking about getting divorced or dissolving a civil partnership, this calculator can give you an idea of your financial situation before a potential divorce settlement. It will also help you work out what you have, what you owe and how you might split assets and finances.

The UK Money Advice Service has an online calculator that can help


22 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All