FAQs on financial settlements in family law


What is ancillary relief?

Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act concerns the division of the matrimonial assets in a divorce case before the court. Financial and property matters are considered to be secondary to the needs of any children of the marriage, therefore the former are known as ancillary relief. There may be disputes between couples about the financial settlement. If disagreement continues, then after the decree nisi (provisional divorce) has been granted, the judge can make a court order regarding the division of shared assets.

Can we make our own decision about the financial settlement in our divorce?

Family mediation is a confidential service, and the mediator can give information about the law, however they cannot give legal advice concerning divorce. If a financial settlement is agreed during family mediation, it is still advisable for the resolution to be checked by the couple’s own family lawyers for fairness and legality. If the parties want the agreement to become legally binding, they must instruct their solicitors to apply for a court order.

What will a financial settlement cover?

Marital assets to be divided by agreement or through court order can include:

  • Any assets acquired during the marriage, such as the marital home and its contents, pensions, securities, investments and insurance
  • Any debts acquired during the marriage, such as credit card debt and hire purchase agreements

All relevant issues will need to be considered when deciding the financial settlement, such as the financial needs and obligations of the partners and any health issues the partners may have.

What is child maintenance?

Child maintenance is regular financial payments that will secure the well-being of a child. After a divorce, the non-resident parent will pay child maintenance to the parent with care, who mainly looks after the child. The amount of child maintenance agreed will take into account the standard of living enjoyed by the child within the family and expectations of their future education or training.

Can the court order the payment of child maintenance?

If the parents cannot agree on the matter of child maintenance, this can be arranged through a court order called a consent order, thereafter payment is enforceable by the court. It is advisable for the parents to have independent legal advice from their family law solicitors, regarding all matters to do with a divorce settlement, including child maintenance.

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