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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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6 July 2012

Coming to agreement on finances: your options as a litigant in person

Mahie Abey, Family Solicitior
In previous posts I have described in detail how to do your own divorce (completing the Divorce Petition, completing the Statement of Arrangements for Children, what to do with the forms when completed, and the remainder of the divorce process). However, as all divorce lawyers, know the divorce itself is the easy bit.

Issues over finances and children are where the arguments can occur. 

If you are a litigant in person (i.e. you are not represented by a solicitor), these are the methods open to you for coming to an agreement on your finances.

What you need to remember is that all the options available to you, including the Court process, are geared towards you and your ex-partner reaching an agreement between yourselves. It is only if ultimately you can’t agree, and you have issued finance proceedings in Court, that a judge will decide the outcome for you.

What are the ways to reach an agreement on splitting your finances without involving the Courts?  

1.      Talk to your ex-partner directly

This is the cheapest, and most sensible, way by far, if you and your ex-partner are able to do it.

If you can come up with your own solution between you - which is fair and you both agree on - what should you then do?

Assuming you are doing the divorce yourself, as I have showed you, once you have got your Decree Nisi you can lodge a consent order dealing with your finances with the Court. A consent order is the legal document the Court needs to approve for your agreement on finances to be finalised.

 You can either get one of the cheap online providers (such as divorceonline) to draft the consent order for you, or go to a local solicitor. (If you are using an online provider, do check that the consent order will be properly drafted by a family law solicitor.)

2.      Use mediation

This is a voluntary and confidential process where you go to a trained mediator whose job is to help you both come to your own decision.

Mediators cannot give you legal advice, but they can ‘reality test’ your suggestions and give you their view of what a Court might do.

In my view it is essential to go to a lawyer mediator, preferably one trained by one of the FMC recognised bodies - find them here.

Remember a mediator is there to help you come to an agreement only - they will not then draft your consent order (or help you with the divorce paperwork).
So once you have reached agreement using mediation follow the advice about getting a consent order I have set out above.

3.      Use Intelligent Divorce.

In my view there is no better or more cost-effective way in my view to come to an agreement with your ex-partner on finances. We help you go through the disclosure process (where you list and agree all your assets, liabilities, income and outgoings), then get the view of one of the very best family barristers on a sensible settlement in your case. 
(This is an extract from an opinion on a sample case, provided by a specialist family law barrister at 1 King's Bench Walk. Of course, each case is completely different, and so the advice provided in each case will be completely different too!)

You then have the tools to come to your own agreement and we get a solicitor to draft your consent order. (Have a look at the site, and start using it for free.)

What do you do if you can’t reach agreement with your ex-partner in one of the ways outlined above?

If none of the above methods works for you, and you cannot afford solicitors, then you have no choice but to issue (start) financial remedy proceedings at Court as a litigant in person.

Before you do this you must first have completed and issued a Divorce Petition (I show you how to do this here and here respectively).

 You are also required to attend (on your own) a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAMS) before you start financial proceedings.

Most mediators in your area will do these and they cost around £100. You can find a mediator from the various FMC member associations’websites – most have search facilities.

If you have already been to mediation, and it has been unsuccessful in that you haven’t reached agreement on your finances, then there is no need to attend a MIAMS.

Once the MIAMs is complete (or after your unsuccessful mediation) your mediator will give you a form known as a FM1. 

Armed with this FM1, and with your Divorce Petition issued, you can then start finance proceedings in Court. 

You do this by completing a Form A (download a pdf version here), attaching the FM1 to it and then sending both forms to the Court in which you have issued the Divorce Petition, with a cheque made payable to HMCTS for £240.

In my next post I will show you how to complete a Form A and explain how the Court timetable works.

Have a look at our other illustrated practical guides to the divorce process and sorting out your finances.