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Divorce/Financial Settlement: Cannot afford solicitors

(52 Posts)
KateDillington Tue 02-Apr-13 10:31:40

Well that's it really. I can't afford it. I'm not entitled to Legal Aid as there is no DV involved.

I've posted on here a few times. I'm in the middle of sorting the financial settlement (20 year marriage, now DH will not disclose so I have filed form A to start financial settlement).

He/his solicitor are being very obstructive (will not answer any questions about finances).

I've spoken to several local solicitors. They have all been very NICE but have all said the same thing (which has surprised me) - that I should represent myself. They've all quoted between 10-50k for their own fees. One said to me today: "To be blunt, for what you are arguing over (we had cash of around 60k joint savings) using a solicitor will be disproportionate as you won't have anything left to argue about."

We have 50:50 shared care of the children. I just want 50% of the value of the house / savings / pension (which he can easily afford). I gave up my career to bring up the children for ten years, but I just want a clean 50% break.

I guess that I just have to get on with it, but on MN I've been told to get legal representation to sort this - but it does seem (with the amounts quoted) that this is just not viable.

Any advice? (Maybe I should just shut up and get on with it!)

I guess I just want someone to tell me it will be ok. sad

RedHelenB Tue 02-Apr-13 15:17:58

Has your ex indicated what settlement he would be happy with? Is the cash still in a joint savings account? If so personally I would transfer half into an account in my own name & let your ex tske on any legal stuff.

Xenia Tue 02-Apr-13 16:11:35

What will he accept? Often it is best to split the difference rather than giving the money to lawyers.

How much is the pension worth? If not much then given a pension valuation may well cost over £1k you may have to leave that as his property and try to get a bit more cash then 50% instead or it may be you feel if you work until you are 70 full time like most of us have to you can build up your own pension entitlement anyway.

Have his lawyers said if they will do a pension sharing order or give you say a fifth the value of the pension pot in lieu?

At some point in most divorces whether you use lawyers or not you simply have to reach agreement with your other half. So have his solicitors made you an offer and if so what is it?

Collaborate Tue 02-Apr-13 17:12:16

You don't say how much the pension is worth. It may dwarf the other assets. It would be false economy not to take some advice at an early stage, in particular financial advice regarding the pension. Pensions law on divorce is a very complex area.

babybarrister Tue 02-Apr-13 17:25:25

www.barcouncil.org.uk/media/203109/srl_guide_final_for_online_use.pdf

This is a new guide for litigants in person - have a good read as it is very helpful IMOsmile

KateDillington Tue 02-Apr-13 17:53:35

Thanks everyone.

I am happy to do a 50/50 split of everything, but he wants me to accept as little as possible. He made me move out and I'm currently living in a tiny rented flat with no wardrobes etc. I can't afford to buy furniture! He doesn't want his life to change. I really have sympathy but we've both moved on - I moved out over a year ago.

His pension dwarfs the other assets - he was a director in the civil service and we put all our savings into his pension a few years ago. He has offered me 30% of the pension, half of the house equity and none of the savings.

It's all in his name.

He earns twice my salary. I tried to keep up with part-time work but once the babies were born, I just couldn't do it.

babybarrister Tue 02-Apr-13 18:17:12

Just go to court and ask for half of everythingsmile

nkf Tue 02-Apr-13 18:23:19

Can you afford not to have a solicitor? That's what it seems to me. You could take what he offers and start again. But it does sound a bit unreasonable to me. Could it work for you? Sorry, not very helpful. Will you be able to work now?

RedHelenB Tue 02-Apr-13 18:28:54

Well if everything is in his name then I think you may well need to use a solicitor if he won't co operate because you may well find that he's busy spending the savings & time could be of the essence! I'm confused - you say there were £60,000 in joint savings, then you say everything was in his name, then you say all the savings were put into his pension. I can sort of see why a solicitor said what they said!

KateDillington Tue 02-Apr-13 18:34:22

Sorry for confusion - it WAS joint savings but everything was in his name as he did all the finances. I think he HAS spent most of it - he has been going on holiday with his partner and buying her presents.

All savings WERE transferred to his pension - about ten years ago. After that, you weren't allowed massive transfers into the civil service pension scheme - those 'in charge' recognised it as a lucrative loophole (effectively buying 'years of service').

I couldn't buy a house on what he has offered. I would have to rent. I really want to buy a house - I've always done up the houses that we've lived in, and gardening used to be my hobby. It's also somewhere stable for the children.

Solicitors are all quoting up to 50k for the 'full service'. If I go down that route, it will wipe out the settlement.

KateDillington Tue 02-Apr-13 18:37:10

I have been working full-time for the last three years but I have just been made redundant. I'm also on a low salary as I work in the charity sector.

RedHelenB Tue 02-Apr-13 19:11:48

I think in your case I would start the ball rolling with the sol;icitors as it may scare him into negociating a better deal for you because the lawyers costs come out of any joint assets and something is definitely better than nothing. Could you afford the mortgage on the current house for eg?

KateDillington Tue 02-Apr-13 20:24:14

I couldn't afford the mortgage on the FMH (where he is living) - and I wouldn't want to anyway - too many grim memories to be honest.

The FMH would be far too big for what I would need/afford.

I have contacted a few solicitors but I cannot even afford the deposit. I really can't afford to pay the thousands required for bills and he has made it clear that he won't resolve this and wants it to go to court.

RedHelenB Tue 02-Apr-13 20:33:30

You'll have to do it yourself then - have you any paperwork connected to the savings, mortgage etc. You need to register your interest on the FMH if it is solely in his name too to stop him transferring it to OW or anything dodgy like that. I would assume the savings have been spent so really you are wanting the FMH sold, him to give you enough equity for a deposit what?

At least with the Civil service the pension will be transparent - how many years till he claims it? And the lump sum of course!

KateDillington Tue 02-Apr-13 20:43:27

He could claim the civil service pension in a few years' time.

I am fairly confident about doing things myself and have paperwork re. the mortgage. Nothing re. savings but he will have to lodge Form E and I KNOW what the situation was in terms of finances when I left, which was now actually 18 months ago.

The house is in our joint names.

He can afford to pay me enough for a large deposit for a house - I know that he has arrangements for a remortgage in place, and can easily afford it. So he doesn't have to sell the home.

babybarrister Tue 02-Apr-13 22:14:14

If you get to a hearing you can use a barrister on a Direct Access basissmile

Collaborate Tue 02-Apr-13 22:35:26

£50,000 sounds outrageously high unless there is a whole lot more to it than you are letting on. I'd say £10-15k assuming he stubbornly refuses to settle all the way to the door of the court.
As a starting off point you ask for 50%, and then more as capitalised spouse maintenance if there's such a large income imbalance.

cjel Tue 02-Apr-13 22:53:55

I've got settlement agrement through solicitors for about £1,ooo 1st appt was free and then so much for each letter, call and email. Divorce is about £500 I think. I'd suggest starting the procedure and hope he'll defend and have to pay.

KateDillington Tue 02-Apr-13 23:40:57

Collaborate: They are all saying "up to" 50k but around 10-15k.

XH is only speaking to me via solicitors. If we both spend 15k, then I may as well not bother, because that will be 30k and the savings were 60k.

The problem is that I really need the house equity plus half the savings in order to buy a house - otherwise I won't be able to afford it.

Xenia Wed 03-Apr-13 08:27:30

Yes, just do it yourself. It seems pretty likely you will get at least half the assets. Sounds like he has spent the savings so you can get a pension sharing order on his pension (it is not the same as giving you a cash lump sum) and it should be 50% of his pension at retirement age not 30%.

Do what C says - ask for 50% of the assets (and pension sharing order - 50%) and then a sum for capitalised maintenance - my ex husband got about 60% of our assets (I earn more).Does your husband pay you monthly now given you have been made redundnant? If not you can apply to the court immediately for immediate maintenance for you if he works and you don't. You could write to his lawyers saying you are offering you want say 70% of the assets and you will not then claim on the pension or ask for regular maintenance or you will go for 50% of assets plus a pension sharing order 50% and on going maintenance until the pensions kick in and if they do not accept in 21 days then you will apply to court for this plus immediate maintenance payments.

babybarrister Wed 03-Apr-13 08:29:25

You need to be asking for slightly more than 50% of pension as you are a woman and will live longersmile

Collaborate Wed 03-Apr-13 09:11:38

And go for equal incomes, not equal transfer values.

KateDillington Wed 03-Apr-13 09:48:40

I really don't want to lose the pension, as I don't have any except tiny ones, and his is considerable.

We have the children 50:50 (he made sure of that) and he would go hysterical if I asked for maintenance. I just want a clean split of 50% of everything.

Thanks all for your advice. smile

cjel Wed 03-Apr-13 11:05:58

I have clean break and had larger share of house sale to cover my pension and other things. If you take money instead of pension you will have plenty to put towards new home.

KateDillington Wed 03-Apr-13 13:32:40

I can't really take money instead of the pension or I will be stuffed in 20 years, as we paid all our contributions into his pension instead of mine about ten years ago (funnily enough I wrote a thread on MN about it at the time, worrying about what would happen if we split up!!!).

bizzybee1234 Wed 03-Apr-13 13:44:13

If he won't share 50/50 on an open and transparent basis, you could ask the judge for a fixed monthly payment to be made (ancillary relief) plus you should get child maintenance as well. It's his choice whether he plays fair now or whether he has to pay you a monthly "income" for the foreseeable future. I know what I would do if I am him...!

RedHelenB Wed 03-Apr-13 13:51:19

A bird in the hand Kate! Truly, I think you would be better to get a cash settlement that you can control than rely on maintenance that you would have to keep going to court to get paid. Do you know what would happen to the pension if he died early on in retirement for eg?

KateDillington Wed 03-Apr-13 13:52:15

Because he has the children 50/50, he won't pay me any maintenance.

RedHelenB Wed 03-Apr-13 13:55:59

Could be rather than would be - you know your ex best.

bizzybee1234 Wed 03-Apr-13 14:01:02

He's clearly not being transparent, so you can threaten him with an ancillary relief and maintenance application to make him co-operate. if you have primary care for the child and you pay things such as school lunches, clothes, uniforms, dance classes etc, then you should get maintenance, whether he likes it or not. I would contact the Child Maintenance people and find out what your rights are. You don't have to enforce them against him, but it is good to let him know that you are making a concession if he will be cooperative on the financial side.

Xenia Wed 03-Apr-13 14:02:33

If he won't pay you maintenance (and clean breaks are much better in my view if you can survive that way) then he will know you are likely to get at least half the joint assets so I suspect the only thing you are both arguing over is he offers 30% of the pension (the main asset) and you want 50% I(and as C said above m ake sure you woudl end up with the same income as him in retirement, which may well be more than 50% of the pension). So write to them offering that and giving them some kind of time table to agree it - I think there has been be some kind of valuation of the pension done and then the pension splitting order and then that half or whatever is ear marked for you and he cannot touch it.

KateDillington Wed 03-Apr-13 14:59:23

He says that because we have the children 50:50 then he won't have to pay maintenance.

Yes it is just the pension and the savings (that he says he has spent) which is the bone of contention. He also has all the furniture and the decent car and other things that I need to buy again - it's silly stuff like wardrobes and a CD player but I really need to start again. He's been making me live from month to month for over a year while he has spent the savings and I really need to sort it out now.

Thanks everyone for advice.

cjel Wed 03-Apr-13 16:01:02

Surely just because he has spent it since you separated doesn't mean you don't still get half of what was there at date of spit. Also taking money in lieu of future pension can be more beneficial, it is worked out on the basis of what it will be in x amount of years time and how much he will be able to earn by then, you can invest how you want, If he is saying he won't pay you maintenance I would recommend you get everything you need now and then have nothing more to do with him financially.I took less than I was advised because I felt that clean break now was worth more peace of mind than years dragging through courts. Don't let him dictate what he wants to 'give' you. Tell him what you need and let him fight against it. Have you thought of mediation ? You will find that he doesn't have as much power of finances than he thinks he has.

Hey Kate,

Sorry to hear your situation. You should maybe try calling Law Express. They offer unbiased legal advice via telephone, for just £30 a call. No matter how long you're on the phone for, or how many questions you need to ask! Very useful service smile

Their website is : LawExpress.co.uk

Hope you manage to get things sorted soon!

Xenia Wed 03-Apr-13 19:22:30

Sadly if he has spent it it is gone and divorce finances are assessed at the point of divorce in England (not Scotland) not the point of separation. That is why someone I know found his wife froze all his bank accounts via her lawyers to stop him using the money for work purposes until the divorce was finalised for example. If the money is spent then it has gone even if one partner spent it on a new woman or drink or cocaine or expensive school trips for the children.

If he earns a lot more he should be paying you interim maintenance now . If you have been earning about the same then now. I earned 10x my ex so he wanted his income brought up to nearer my level for life and one reason he got more than half the assets was that I was buying out that claim on a clean break.

The things in the house should be shared. In our case he moved out and once I'd bought him out and he had enough cash (rather a lot) to buy the stuff again but in your case a valuation of the second hand car, furniture etc ( probably pretty low value) shoudl be done and then that go into the pot of asset values.

KateDillington Thu 04-Apr-13 18:05:25

He HAS spent the savings, but he hasn't taken any money out of his company over the last year - so all his earnings are 'in the company'. This is about the same as the savings that we had. His solicitor says that the company mustn't be touched - but it's only the way he pays himself for self-employed work -there isn't anything to 'invest' in per se.

Therefore I think it's reasonable that I request half of whatever is in the company i.e. half of his earnings over the last year or so, that he hasn't taken out because he's lived on joint savings instead.

Does that seem reasonable?

sicutlilium Thu 04-Apr-13 18:57:01

OP - on the money in the company issue - keep an eye open for the final outcome of this case: www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed104052

RedHelenB Thu 04-Apr-13 20:00:09

If he's self employed I wouldn't hold your breath & that may be why the solicitors responded as they did.

Iplone Thu 04-Apr-13 20:10:48

Many people just don't have the money to pay solicitors, it can be very expensive indeed, around half of those that go to court represent alone, no solicitor, what you can have though is a friend to take notes and offer moral support, known as a Mckenzie friend, every little helps.

If the total pot of money is 60k then really you need to avoid solicitors or a big chunk will go to pay their fees.

babybarrister Thu 04-Apr-13 21:17:30

Petrodel is a very particular case which involves piercing the corporate veil in relation to companies in which a husband apparently had no interest albeit that he received income .... Judgement will not be out for many months I suspect as the Supreme Court like to take their timegrin. Your H's solicitor is simply wrong if he thinks the company can be kept out of the pot - who owns the shares? Who are the directors? What is the value of the fixed assets? How much cash in the bank does it have?
You can always pay for specific legal advice once you have exchanged Form Es and have seen what H says about the value of the companysmile

babybarrister Thu 04-Apr-13 21:22:58

The one thing that is clear is that there is much much more than £60 k in dispute ...

cjel Thu 04-Apr-13 21:37:32

If he owns his own business than probably you are entitled to a share of that pot as well. When I first separated I had a figure in my mind of the value of the assets, but I was soon informed that it was more because our business was taken in to account. I should get legal advice asap.

fuckwittery Thu 04-Apr-13 21:41:31

Full service legal rep to trial will be 50k, but could only be 10 to 15k as most people settle way before trial. I would go and see a solicitor at stages of the process, get familiar with one, but represent yourself, do correspondence yourself, find out about the process and just ask for advice when you need it. I do lots of ad hoc advice for clients in this way., usually financially savvy people who are happy to deal with disclosure and answer or raise questions, but may need advice about the law when it comes to negotiating, and to draw up or comment on an agreement.

Spero Thu 04-Apr-13 21:55:35

I agree with baby barrister - take it to court and ask for half of everything. He will have to disclose if it goes to court, the obligation on both of you will be full and frank disclosure. Companies can be tricky to value but there isn't much mystery about what is in bank accounts or pension pot.

This kind of dicking about is tedious and emotionally draining. If he is not prepared to try and negotiate outside of court proceedings, he is an idiot, but as he has nailed his colours to the mast I would just get on with it. Instructing a barrister via direct access might be the most cost effective way of going forward, so you can get some help and advice at the first appointment.

Xenia Thu 04-Apr-13 22:23:36

Yes, an asset is the company. Do you own shares in it? Does he own 100% of its shares? Does it have many assets other than the cash in it such as a freehold property or stock or machines?

Xenia Thu 04-Apr-13 22:24:31
KateDillington Fri 05-Apr-13 14:49:56

I don't hold any stock in the company and he is the sole director. The only assets are his laptops etc.

Xenia Fri 05-Apr-13 15:27:47

It can be hard to value companies. For example my father was him business and when he died there was really no value. If I died I doubt there would be a saleable value so the asset in a sense is the income that person derives from the business. However many other types of businesss with staff and decent turnover do have a value - may be they would sell on the open market for a year's turnover or something like that. Indeed in one big divorce (owner of FCUK??) the wife's half of the shares was absolutely massive in value.

If his company is basically him and no one would probably buy the business and it doesn't have a huge lot of assets and properties then you may just want as much of the family assets as possible now as a clean break to be done with it - and he is offering 50% I think and then negotiate to get a fair share of the pensions where all the money was put.

Why not put an offer to his lawyers with a time limit to accept it and say if it is not accepted then you will start the court proceedings if they will not agree a consent order on the finances.

Perhaps try to find out the company's finances - you can buy the accounts at companieshouse.gov.uk. If the only asset is a lap top I suspect it is not really a company with much value unless it owns valuable inventions or anything like that and he is just choosing not to draw much cash out of the company at present.

KateDillington Fri 05-Apr-13 17:10:50

Thanks Xenia.

The company is really just a way of him getting his self-employed earnings and paying less tax on them - there is nothing but his time to trade.

I don't want any part of it but my concern is that over the last year he has kept all his 'earnings' in the company and spent the joint savings instead.

Is it therefore reasonable of me to request half of the earnings that he has left in the company? (He says not.)

I have lodged Form A with the court already - I've made several offers which are reasonable but he won't accept them, and now won't answer any questions 'outside of the court process' according to his solicitor.

McKenzie13 Fri 05-Apr-13 17:57:40

Hi KateDillington,

Sorry to hear that you have been refused legal aid but you are finding yourself in the same boat as many others.

You mention that you had a 20year marriage and there are children. Personally, based on the info you've given on this thread, I think you're being pretty lenient.

Your children would be entitled to maintenance. You don't mention their ages. This is relevant. Whilst you are in favour of a 50:50 split financially, I suspect that you would be entitled to more than this.

Ancillary relief is decided on many factors. These include ages of the parties; length of marriage; children of the marriage; ages of the children; their current and future needs; your current and future needs etc.

You mention that your earns much more than you do. This means, at the very least, that he can contribute towards the children. You also don't mention what you did for work? How were the arrangements of the children sorted during the marriage? Were you the homemaker and he the breadwinner? If this was the case then it would be harder for you re-start any career. Factors like these are taken into account when deciding ancillary relief. It's not always a simple factor of diving everything on a 50:50 basis when the scales are balanced unequally.

Hope that's given you food for thought.

Xenia Fri 05-Apr-13 19:16:06

Very wise advice.

So he is going to pretend his company has paid him nothing this year and indeed might find expenses it has paid so that its coffers are bare. Let us say that he spent £50k of the family savings and did not draw a sum out of the company which after tax would have been say £50k out of the company which otherwise but for the divorce he would have done. It may be hard to prove and his income is what the company pays him so loads of people make sure their company pays them little and miraculously the company's expenses get higher eg new lover suddenly paid £20k a year as secretarial fees and hard to disprove she did no work.

As he is not offering a fair split given you did not work for 10 years - let us assume the children are 18 and 19 so not relevant but if they are little then it will make a difference so if he will not accept the money in the company goes in part to you then he will have to accept you obtain more than 50% of the joint assets given your career sacrifice and equal income from the pension in due course.

What troubles me is if spends a lot of his lawyers all that money in his company may go on that. I keep coming across people who say they would much rather their lawyer had the £100k family savings in legal fees than that their spouse gets a single penny of it which is a ridiculous stupid statement but very common when people are feeling hurt.

Spero Fri 05-Apr-13 19:39:22

Sadly Xenia is right - I have lost count of clients who say to me that they don't care how much the court proceedings cost as long as 'that bitch/that bastard' doesn't get the money. They would rather they both sink.

So I always advise getting in and out of court as quickly as possible once it becomes clear they won't negotiate. And sometimes it is better to settle for less than you think you could get, once you factor in the cost of more hearings and more valuations etc.

these proceedings can become consuming because often emotions are to the fore rather than commercial considerations.

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