When you are separating, a real concern for many couples is what the financial outcome of the split will be. Questions about,  whether you'll be able to keep the house? or whether your children will have to change schools?,  or can you afford to pay the bills?, and what will happen about pensions? are the kind of questions we are often asked.

If you and your partner are married or in a civil partnership and can't agree on how to split property and sort out your finances you can apply to the courts for a financial remedy.

The courts are able to make a range of orders for cash payments, transfer of property or other assets, maintenance and pension sharing. The position is not the same for unmarried couples who have been living together.

We would encourage you to come and see us for an initial meeting, so you fully understand your options.  For most people a session with a mediator will be best before making an application to the court.  We would work with you alongside that process. Mediation isn’t right for everyone, or sometimes things drag on or you just cannot reach agreement, so a court application is then necessary.

After an application has been issued

You and your partner will be required to:

  • Complete a Form E which is a document setting out all your financial details
  • Produce copies of documents, such as bank or building society statements, payslips, valuations and accounts.

The court sets a First Directions Appointment (FDA)  before a District Judge about 12 weeks after you apply to court.  The judge will identify the issues and make orders to get the information needed to sort them out, for example to  value your assets. This has to be twelve weeks after the application is issued.

If things aren't sorted out at the FDA the next stage is the Financial Dispute Resolution appointment (FDR). You and your partner both attend this court hearing, where the District Judge, will encourage reach of you to reach an agreement on your finances and will usually indicate what he or she thinks would be a reasonable outcome. We will support you in preparing for the hearing and at court.

Only if the issues cannot be sorted out will there be a final hearing at a later date heard by a different District Judge who will hear evidence, consider the documents and give a judgment. It can be several months before a date for a final hearing. But it is possible to reach an agreement and submit a note of that agreement, called a consent order, to the judge for approval at any point. Most cases do resolve without a final hearing, which is expensive and stressful.

Some couples financial arrangements can be settled with a 'clean break', which means a lump sum payment and/or property transfer and no ongoing maintenance. A clean break ends the financial relationship between you and you partner. But support will still be payable for any dependent children. Sometimes there are not enough assets or another reason meaning regular maintenance payments from one person to the other is needed and then a clean break won’t be possible, these can be open-ended (during joint lives or until the person receiving the payments remarries or enters a new civil partnership) or for a fixed period of time.

We Can Help

At McMillan Williams, our mission is "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone", including those who are going through a divorce or legal separation.  Our solicitors are experts in all aspects of Divorce and Legal Separation including Mediation and Ancillary Relief.  Call us today on 020 3551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk. 

In cases of domestic violence you need support and guidance immediately.


Keeley Lengthorn
Keeley Lengthorn
Associate Solicitor

We will respond quickly and efficiently to any request for advice, assistance and representation.

We can help you to apply for an injunction following verbal abuse, violence or threats of violence or harassment (including through social media). This can be in the form of a non-molestation order, an occupation order or a Protection from Harassment order which can be obtained to not only protect you (and any children) from violence, but also to sort out who stays in the home.

Same day appointments are available for the most urgent of cases whenever possible, and we can often get to Court the same day.

We Can Help

At MW, our mission is To make quality legal services accessible to everyone, especially those at risk of domestic violence.  If you would like to talk in confidence to one of our team of specialist family solicitors call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk

Depending on your situation you may be eligible for government funding called Legal Aid.  Legal Aid is still available for a number of family cases, but if you are not eligible for Legal Aid you may want to consider the following:

Family Fee Choices 

Many people are put off instructing a solicitor because they are worried about the fees they will have to pay.  We have created “Family Fee Choices” to deal with those concerns and make our fees as transparent as possible.  We leave the choice of what you want to agree to pay to you, by offering you several alternatives.  You simply decide which of our fee schemes works best for the level of legal support you feel you need and what fits your budget. 

  • Pay as you go - This scheme allows you to pay for each piece of advice you seek from us, for a fixed price.  We don’t go on the court record as acting for you, so you continue to receive all the letters and court orders from the court and the other parties’ solicitors.  We won’t write to anyone on your behalf.  You simply come and see us when you need us and pay an agreed fee for that meeting and an email confirming what we have discussed and what we recommend you do next.  You can come as many times as you like, for as much or as little advice as you like, paying for each time you come.

  • Pay as you go (court) - Allows you to pay for us each time you need us.  One of our in house team of court experienced solicitors or barristers, will agree a fee with you for the type of hearing you need help with.  We will meet you at court, represent you there, and then send you an email setting out what happened and what you need to do next.  And that’s it. You pay us one agreed fee, and as long as the funds are with us before the hearing we will be there for you.  Next time you need us, just call again.

  • Fixed fee support - We will go on the record as acting for you and will correspond on your behalf with the court and the other parties.  We will prepare documents on you behalf and write to you at regular intervals to let you know what is going on.  All we ask of you is that you pay us the fixed fee up front.  We will set out in a detailed letter what is covered within the fee you have agreed with us.  We won’t charge you a penny more than the agreed amount, unless the case develops in a way that takes it out of the scheme or you ask us to do more.  This will be set out in the letter to you before you decide.  No court hearings will be covered in this fee scheme.  Although, if you want us to help you at court, you can pay us on a “Pay as you go” basis.

  • Traditional full legal support – Where you pay us a regular payment on account each month, and we will bill you each month based on an hourly rate charged for each piece of work we do for you.  The rate is based on the level of experience of the solicitor or legal adviser assisting you.  We will undertake all steps and correspondence involved in your case, including representing you at court.  We will send you a detailed letter at the beginning of the case estimating the likely overall costs of the case to be incurred and also additional costs like court fees, process server’s fees, and doctor’s report fees.  As long as you continue to keep us in funds we will continue to act for you, but if you are unable to continue to pay us we reserve the right to stop acting for you.  We will see you in a fixed fee appointment to get the details of the case and then write to you setting out all the costs information before you decide if you want to instruct us in this basis.

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