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Our blog provides illustrated practical guides for those going through the divorce process, plus news on divorce, money and family breakdown.

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14 November 2011

The really useful divorce site guide (no 2): Money Advice Service


The independent and unbiased Money Advice Service website is funded by the Financial Services Authority - it’s mission statement is ‘We’re here to help everyone manage their money better’.

The Divorce and Separation section of the website is a fantastic resource for information on the financial implications of relationship breakdown. (by the way, the rest of it is really worth looking at too!). It is split into six sections: ‘Thinking about separation or divorce’, ‘The steps involved’, ‘If you have children’, ‘Living arrangements’, ‘Splitting what you have’ and ‘Managing money’.

Importantly there is also the ‘Divorce and Separation calculator’, which we’ll come to in a minute.

The textual information on the site gives helpful advice on the general points to consider, the various options, and the processes you will have to go through – unlike many other sites, it covers not only married couples but civil partners and unmarried couples. It also advises you if the law or processes are different in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

The material has been put together under the guidance of experienced and extremely  well-respected family solicitor Roger Bamber of Mills and Reeve, who also founded divorce.co.uk, discussed in a previous blog. That means you can rest assured that the legal, and other, advice offered is of a very high standard.

Each section of the textual material also contains brief information on, and links to, other relevant sites that may be useful – for example to find a mediator in your area, or organisations supporting parents.

The ‘If you have children’ section lists the ways in which children can be financially supported – a private agreement, child maintenance paid via the CSA or by going to Court – and also talks about the interesting idea of insuring child maintenance, in case the paying parent dies. Crucially, the section also gives you further advice on what to do if your circumstances change once maintenance has been agreed – whether you are the parent receiving or paying the maintenance.

Living arrangements’ gives practical help on deciding how to deal with the family home – with sections on what to do if the home is owned (including how to deal with the mortgage) and what to do if you rent.

Splitting what you have’ provides advice on dividing things on an asset by asset basis – including bank accounts, pensions, business you own etc. You are offered further information and links where relevant. ‘Managing money’ then gives you advice on how to deal with these assets – for example in the case of bank accounts, you may want to close joint accounts, and open your own.

Probably the most interesting –and certainly the most innovative – part of the site is the ‘Divorce and Separation calculator’, which, as it says, will help you to draw up a budget of your outgoings, work out what assets and liabilities you have, and ‘create scenarios for splitting your assets’.

All information entered is completely anonymous and confidential. If you want to save the information you have entered, you are given an unique password (which you can choose to have emailed to you) so you can come back to it later. You can also have the results of your workings emailed to you – useful if you want to then take it to a mediator for example.
Firstly you give some general details about your situation – such as whether you are entering information about both yourself and your ex-partner and whether you have children for example.
You then enter your income. A template is provided, which will help you in the process – i.e. it prompts you to enter earned income, income from benefits, income from savings etc. Next, you enter all your outgoings – again, you can add figures into the standard template entries provided, as well as adding your own particular item as required.
This leads to a summary of your income and outgoings, with the surplus (hopefully!) or shortfall being shown.
The next part of the calculator deals with your assets and liabilities. You enter these section by section – property, bank accounts, ISAs, other investments, credit card debt and so on. Help on individual question is there when you click on the help icon. 

The third part of the calculator lets you see the different ways in which you could split your assets and liabilities. You give details of what is proposed for the family home (it is sold; rented out; one of you lives there etc) and information about the housing needs of the other person if necessary. You can then split all the assets and liabilities you’ve entered, using a slide rule, in whatever way you choose. As you move the slide rule along, it shows you what the numeric values would be if you had 60% of that asset and your ex-partner had 40%. You can of course treat each asset separately. At the end, you’re given an overall picture of this possible split scenario, both in numeric and percentage terms.

As mentioned before, this information can be printed out or emailed to you – very useful if you want to discuss it with your ex-partner, or take it to a solicitor or mediator.

As a starting point of trying to work out what you and your ex-partner have between you, Money Advice Service is a fantastically useful site.