Dividing your money and property when your marriage or civil partnership ends

When your marriage or civil partnership breaks down, you and your ex-partner have to work out how to divide everything you own between you, whether you own it together or individually.

You may also need to decide how much ongoing financial support one of you gives to the other and how long those maintenance payments last.

You can either:

  • come to an agreement about how you do this
  • ask the courts to decide for you

Coming to an agreement

The simplest and cheapest way of dividing your things is to come to an agreement with your ex-partner. If it's safe and appropriate to do so, you can do this yourselves or with the help of a mediator.

You can make the agreement legally binding by applying to the courts for a consent order.

However, if you've experienced domestic abuse in the relationship, it's often not safe or appropriate to take this option.

Ask the courts to decide

The courts can make a financial order (also called ancillary relief) that sets how your money and property will be divided when you split up.

You can apply for a financial order once your divorce or separation proceedings have started. It’s usually best to apply for a financial order before your relationship has officially ended, otherwise you may have to pay extra tax on assets coming to you.

Usually, you have to go to a mediation meeting (called a MIAM) first too – unless you can show you’ve experienced domestic abuse. If so, you’ll be asked to bring evidence (such as a police report) to the first hearing.

The court can decide an all aspects of your financial arrangements, including:

  • what happens to the family home, including whether it should be given to one of you, or sold and divided between you
  • how your money, savings and investments are divided
  • how pensions are divided
  • whether either of you should make regular payments to the other (called spousal maintenance)
  • whether either of you should make a lump sum payment to the other

The judge will try to be fair and take all relevant circumstances into account. This doesn’t usually include the reason for your split, unless it’s affected your financial situation – for example, domestic abuse has stopped you from earning a living.

Decisions about child maintenance can be made by the Child Maintenance Service separately.

Divorce is stressful and can be complicated, and you may want to get a solicitor to help you. Going to court to contest your divorce can also be expensive. If you’ve experienced domestic abuse, you may be able to get legal aid.

Your home

What happens to your home and who gets to live there depends to some extent on ownership of the property and any associated legal rights to live there.

If children are involved, the court will carefully consider their circumstances and look to minimise disruption to their lives.

To find out what your options are, please see What happens to the family home when I divorce?

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