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Completing A Divorce Financial Settlement

New Complexities In The Divorce Financial Settlement Process: Form D818th Mar 2022

Resolving Your Divorce Finances (Form D81)

Sorting out your finances following divorce has become more complicated. The new D81 form – Statement Of Information For A Consent Order In Relation To A Financial Remedy – runs to 23 pages. Its predecessor was just six pages long.

Credit where credit’s due, they’ve tried to make it as jargon-free as possible. Some pages feature simple jargon-busting explanations. And there are also explanatory notes to help dispel possible confusion about what is needed. 

But it’s the sheer amount of financial detail required that many people will find overwhelming. Especially if they’ve never had to fill in an official form of this length and complexity – and particularly when they’re going through such an emotional upheaval.

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Why Are Forms Like D81 Needed? And Why The Changes?

The purpose of this form historically was to give a judge an overview of the parties’ financial positions when looking at an agreed settlement (consent order). This is when a divorcing couple has reached an agreement and wants a judge to approve it to make it legally binding. The old form was significantly simpler than the new D81. Aside from D81’s length, the main differences are that it:

  • provides more room to explain the parties’ assets
  • requires more detailed information about income
  • takes into account the net effect of the agreement (Section 10 on pages 10 and 11 of the form). 

This third point is the biggest change. Form D81 asks you to schedule what assets each party has (as the old one did) – but now you have to set out to the judge what would happen with these assets in real terms after the order were implemented.

For example, perhaps the husband has a pension worth £500,000 but the wife would receive half – so the net effect column in table 10 will show that both would end up with £250,000.

Section 13 (on page 15) asks for an explanation of the reasons behind the agreement. It is often the case that the agreement might not be 50/50 – and judges want to know why. Perhaps the wife would keep the house and the husband would keep the pension; the judge wants to understand why this is fair.

This is because sending an agreement to the court is not a rubber-stamping exercise. Judges often throw orders back if they are unusual in any way; they ask for an explanation. This creates delays, stress and added costs. The idea of the new D81 form is to make it crystal clear to the judge what is happening at the beginning – so they’ll be more likely to make the order at the first time of asking. 

Hopefully, this will be the case but judges may still query agreements. They want to ensure agreements are fair to both parties.

What Happens Before I Fill In Form D81?

Before completing form D81, you’ll need to have reached an agreement on your divorce finances – how your assets and liabilities are to be divided fairly.

A consent order setting out the terms agreed between the parties should be drafted, approved, signed and lodged with the court. You may be asked by your solicitor to provide written, signed instructions that you’ve read and understood the consent order once drafted and give your authority to settle on the terms set out in it.

What’s In Form D81?

Form D81 contains a great many searching questions. And quite a few of them are not easily answered – not without delving into your financial files and ploughing through reams of complex paperwork and pdfs. It may be years since you last looked at those documents. So it’s at times like these that you’ll be grateful that your filing system was good (or wish ruefully that it had been).

You’ll also need to attach your consent order to the form and explain how you reached consensus: discussion between parties, negotiations through solicitors, out-of-court dispute resolution or ‘other’.

But inevitably, it’s the finances that will most people will find stressful as they wade through all details required. Disentangling your finances from those of your former partner was never going to be easy…but form D81 doesn’t make the process any simpler.

You’ll need to provide details of:

  • property values (after deducting any mortgages)
  • other capital – money in bank accounts, savings, investments, ISAs
  • liabilities – mortgage(s), loans, overdrafts, credit card debts
  • pensions valuation (cash equivalent).

Then you’ll need to perform a series of calculations involving:

  • all the various financial sub-totals (subtracting the sub-totals of the respondent)
  • any child support or maintenance you may already be receiving.

And then come yet more tables to be filled in with:

  • the impact of the proposed financial remedy order (section 10, as mentioned above)
  • your monthly income – including pensions, Pension Protection Fund (PPF) compensation payments, bank account interest, trust fund and investment income
  • child support, maintenance, spousal maintenance payments
  • other matters the court should consider – such as a pre-nuptial agreement, post-nuptial agreement or a separation agreement
  • where you, your spouse and children will live and how each property will be occupied (owner, tenant etc)
  • new relationships – including any proposed cohabitation, remarriage or civil partnership
  • pension orders, pension/PPF sharing.

How Will I Cope With All This Paperwork?

All this added complexity does not bode well for litigants in person forced to represent themselves in the family courts. Form D81 is yet another reason to get the expert advice of a divorce solicitor – rather than trying to struggle through the process alone.

Your solicitor can’t fill in form D81 for you: there are financial details that only you will know and only you will be able to access. But we can support you through the process to make it easier, less painful and less stressful. We can answer your questions about the details and calculations needed and provide the friendly, professional and sympathetic support you’ll need to help you get through the process.

How you complete form D81 will have a very real and long-term impact on your future finances – how much you may pay or receive in maintenance. So it pays to get it right. And for that, you’ll need expert legal advice from an experienced divorce solicitor who goes through forms such as D81 on a daily basis.

New Pilot Scheme For Children Proceedings

A new pilot scheme has been launched to help improve outcomes for all family court users. There will be a focus on people who have suffered domestic abuse (including children, and people who have to represent themselves in court).

The pilot scheme will be testing a more investigative approach – featuring earlier gatekeeping and information gathering. A holistic multi-agency approach is planned; the aim is to help avoid multiple hearings. Courts will also “seek to hear the voice of the child more clearly through each case in the pilot”.

This pilot scheme will apply only to specified children proceedings involving applications filed between 21 February 2022 and 21 February 2024. There are six locations:

  • Bournemouth
  • Weymouth
  • Caernarfon
  • Mold
  • Prestatyn
  • Wrexham.

Further Reading

Get Expert Legal Advice On Divorce And Dissolution

Coles Miller’s Family Law Department is led by Partner Richard Perrins. Contact him for expert and sympathetic legal advice on divorce, civil partnership dissolution, separation, children matters, resolving finances, change of name, cohabitation/pre-nuptial agreements, surrogacy and fertility law, known donor disputes, LGBT law, mediation and dispute resolution.

This document is not intended to constitute and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice on any specific matter. No liability for the accuracy of the content of this document, or the consequences of relying on it, is assumed by the author. If you seek further information, please contact Managing Partner Neil Andrews at Coles Miller Solicitors LLP.