A fair settlement takes account of all of your and your spouse or civil partner's assets (whether in your own name or joint names, or held by others on your behalf) and to divide them in any way the judge thinks is fair having reference to certain factors including the needs that each of you have.
The first thing to think about is the interests of the children which is usually the need to provide a family home with each parent. If there are no children, then each spouse or civil partner will need a home. see Living Arrangements.
If you have been in a short or short to medium length relationship, perhaps around five to seven years or less, and there are no children, fairness may mean you each keep everything you had when you got married, and divide equally the possessions, savings and other things that built up during the marriage.
This is only a starting point. Your own circumstances may mean that this division is unfair and account will be taken of what each gave up for the marriage or civil partnership. If you have been married for longer and/or have children, the court may decide everything should be split equally. However, fairness may require an unequal division of the assets, for example if there isn't enough available to meet everyone's needs. In that case the court will give priority to ensuring that any children are provided for and this often means the person who is the children's main carer receives more than half of the assets.
Alternatively, a court may take account of the fact that some assets were inherited or built up before the marriage or after separation. If that is the case, provided they are not needed to meet both parties' needs, the person who received or built up the assets may be allowed to keep them or receive more than half of the total assets to take account of this. In deciding what orders to make, the court considers a number of factors, including earning capacity, age, needs, resources and any disability. Bad behaviour will only be taken account of by the court if it is exceptional.
- Home or other property – estate agent valuations less outstanding mortgage and costs of sale.
- Savings – recent statements less any withdrawal penalties.
- Investments – recent statements or valuations less any surrender charges and tax.
- Pensions – transfer value obtained from scheme or provider.
- Antiques, artwork – existing insurance valuations or specialist valuation.
- Personal possessions – second-hand value so use 1/3 of insurance valuations as a rough guide.
- Business – accountant's valuation.
- Remember to deduct any debts from the total value of your possessions so that you have an idea of what you would be left with if everything was sold to raise case and all debts had been paid off.