How to negotiate a divorce settlement in the UK

Written by lisa naylor Google
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How to negotiate a divorce settlement in the UK
Divorce is painful for all parties. (John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Most people marry with the ideal of staying together forever. Unfortunately, divorce is on the increase and realistically it is a prospect that many will face whether they want to or not. According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 117,558 divorces in the UK in 2011, meaning that 42 perceng of marriages end this way. Knowing what to expect will not lessen the emotional difficulty but may help to reduce the fear of the unknown.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Understand the process. In brief, one party files a divorce petition to the court stating the reason for the divorce, whether you have any children and what the arrangements are in relation to them and pays a fee -- as of June 2013 this is £340. The petition is served on the other person involved and he either agrees and signs it or disputes it. If he disputes it, or responds by filing his own petition, you will end up in court to sort it out. If the petition is agreed, you can apply for a decree nisi, which is a certificate from a judge stating that there is no reason not to be divorced. A consent order will need to be filed at court setting out the agreement in relation to finances and children (if any). Six weeks later, you can apply for a decree absolute (for a fee), which certifies the end of the marriage. The six-week interim period is intended to allow the settlement of any outstanding issues, such as contact with children and the division of assets. Realistically, this process takes much longer.

  2. 2

    Get some help. The emotional pain of a divorce can make it too difficult to think clearly and be reasonable. There are plenty of family mediation services around with people specially trained to help you focus on the important issues and help you to reach a reasonable compromise. The more that is agreed amicably, the easier and less expensive the process will be. While it is possible to handle the paperwork of a divorce yourself, most people hire a solicitor to do it for them. They can also help you to negotiate your settlement but their time can be costly, so discuss fees up front.

  3. 3

    Be realistic. Divorce is inevitably fraught with stress and anxiety for both parties. In the UK, remember that divorce is a “no-fault” process, so even if one person admits adultery, this will generally have no impact on the settlement arrangements. A court will not allow one party to use a financial or other agreement to punish the other for her wrongdoing, so it is wise to try and be pragmatic when sorting through issues that need to be agreed.

  4. 4

    Look to the future. The two main areas of negotiation are finances and arrangements relating to children. Both parties will have to declare their financial interests including assets, property, savings, pensions, bank accounts and investments. When reaching an agreement, certain factors will be taken into consideration like standard of living during the marriage, the earnings of both partners, potential future earnings, length of the marriage and contributions made during the marriage. Try to focus on what will work best after the divorce is finalised, rather than trying to argue with every little step along the way. What financial arrangement will work best? Do you need to provide/receive financial support? What will be best in the long term for your children? Trying to be reasonable now will have a positive impact on the rest of your life.

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