This is my first ever post. I hope you can help. Likewise, I will keenly help others by sharing my experience as it works through.
I am going through a tough divorce. What should have been an amicable split (after the initial heartache and emotion) has turned hostile and I am keen to move things forward as soon as possible to protect the children. My wife cheated on me and wants to start a new life with her new partner (although she now denies this as she knows it may affect her settlement if she declares it). He is a fireman, age 50 (no children), doesn’t earn or have much, but will retire on a decent pension. Anyway, I think both our solicitors are in this for the money, and are not very sensitive to the situation and the children. They both seem to want to take matters to court which will be very expensive (and I think/hope unnecessary). Our financials are not complex, so I am keen to present a fair and reasonable offer to my wife to avoid a stressful and expensive court process. That said, almost overnight, my wife seems to have become the most greedy, lazy and unreasonable person on the planet (but I gather that is not uncommon in these situations).
Please kindly see below our current financial setup and circumstances, and then my questions follow after that.
Together 12 years, married for 10 (I am 44, she is 42)
(note, she was married before, and again had an affair which resulted in divorce)
Two children together (both boys, 10 & 7)
Happy marriage until she cheated one year ago
Still living together (as advised by my solicitor, and because I am particularly close to the boys who don’t want me to move out; although she wants me out)
She remains covertly in her new relationship (but denies it’s ongoing to avoid me claiming he can support her in the future; he doesn’t earn much, but is 50 and will retire on a decent pension)
CHILDREN / CUSTODY
Both at Catholic state schools (no fees).
Already agreed that she will we have them 9 nights, I will have them 5 nights.
Plenty of childcare on hand with my (big) family always keen/happy to help with school pickups/tea parties.
I would have them more if it wasn’t for my job; I spend all my free time with them; am particularly close to them.
I envisage a time when they will live with me permanently actually; there is more stability with me, and I have a big family to whom the boys are very close.
Her family are in Yorkshire; she relies on my family for help with the children (and they happily oblige; my parents, sister, cousins are all fit and well, and close by).
STANDARD OF LIVING
Good/very comfortable, but not extravagant.
3-bed semi (converted to 4-bed), close to school.
2 holidays a year
1 Family car
Hers: ~£25k (all accumulated during our marriage)
Mine: ~£180k (50% accumulated during our marriage)
EMPLOYMENT / INCOMES
I work in financial services, £130k pa. (historically received bonuses too, but nothing in the last 4 years as the industry been tough)
She was in HR, on ~£60k pa., but gave up work when we had children and has never gone back (but is more than capable of doing something now)
Children/custody has been agreed at 9 nights her / 5 nights me (over a two week period).
But I would greatly appreciate the forum’s thoughts on the financial aspect.
I am under the impression she wants at least the following:
1. A mortgage-free house worth ~£650k
2. Child maintenance
3. Spousal maintenance until the children leave full-time education (I’m not sure how much)
4. A share of any future bonuses I may get
5. A share of my pensions
6. To be under no pressure to return to work anytime soon (despite both children at school, aged 10 & 7, and with free childcare on tap by my family – which happens anyway)
>>>But what do you think:
1. If this went to court (we have a date set for 18th Dec which may be used as an FDR; a court in NE London), what might the outcome be in terms of the:
a. asset division?
b. spousal maintenance (amount/duration) ?
2. Where do I pitch the first offer?
3. Do I go for maintenance or try a clean break (bigger asset split in her favour, but less or zero maintenance)?
4. A judge will surely say she will have to go back to work? (maybe not £60k pa, see below, but something meaningful?)
5. If she co-habits (she won’t remarry) – can I vary or stop the maintenance?
6. Anything else you think I should consider?
The amount of detail you have given is far too much for us to be able to advise on, you really are better with professional legal advice. However, have you tried mediation? I would have said that any agreement you can reach beforehand will save you a lot in legal fees, even if you have to give slightly more than you would like - in the long run you'll still be better off. With regards child maintenance, personally I would open a case with CMS and leave it out of the divorce settlement - after 12 months, anything the court rules on child maintenance can be overriden by CMS anyway, so it's easier to start with them.
Please note, I am not legally trained and what I write are my personal views which I express.
What I would say is remember you have a new life to create for yourself after your divorce and will need money to finance it. I have known a number of men who have not looked to their own future and been overly generous to their former wives / partners to the detriment of themselves. In so doing for example, housing has been difficult for them, consequently making it difficult for the children to stay overnight with their father.
You may not think you will at the moment but you may in the future remarry and have more children. We do not know what the future holds or where our emotions will take us. We therefore need to take into account the possibilities of what we may need in the future when dealing with the present.
As mentioned by actd I personally would pay child maintenance through the C.M.S. The amount calculated by using your Tax Return is the legal amount payable which covers all aspects of maintenance for a child. If you do this make sure it is stated on your bank statement that it is a child maintenance payment. By using the C.M.S. and paying what they calculate, you are then free to pay for extras if and when you choose, it is in your control.
I personally would go for a financial clean break in the divorce.
How would you feel if your ex Wife remarries or co-habits and you are paying maintenance for years when she has another man in her life who will be supporting her financially? Your maintenance payments could inadvertently end up supporting her new partner.
I believe assets have to be split 50 /50 these days.
I do not know about claiming on another persons pension.
If your children are going to live with their Mother a home would need to be provided which may lead to her getting a larger proportion of the equity in the house. To avoid this I have known of a father who agreed to his ex wife and children occupying the house until the youngest child reached 21 years of age and at that point the house was to be sold and the equity split 50 / 50 between the two but I cannot remember what the documented legal agreement was called.
I personally would not move out of the house until all matters had been finalized. Doing so could make your situation more difficult and cause unnecessary complications.
I sincerely hope you can come to an amicable agreement with your wife which is fair and reasonable for you both and most important to be able to minimize the effect on the children of your divorce.
I would seek professional legal advice to ascertain what your options are..
One thing I would add - do not, under any circumstances, pay a large lump sum in lieu of future child maintenance as the CMS can override that after 12 months and you don't get your lump sum taken into account.
Thank you for your very kind, sympathetic and wise words. I will bear all of this in mind.
Frustratingly, my wife is being guided by a very aggressive and ruthless solicitor who is keen to take matters straight to court. It seems that unless I offer a ridiculously generous settlement, that is where this will end up. Spousal maintenance is the sticking point. I sense she wants a material amount for several years (6 or more). That seems a lot, given she can work. So, part of me thinks that maybe court is the best way forward for me now actually. Surely a judge will be more reasonable. But therein lies the dilemma - I have no idea really what a judge will say. Likewise, the cost of court action is extortionate. Anyway, I'm currently trying some "Direct Access Barristers" to see if I can get some better guidance on the likely court outcome. They are a bit cheaper, and it might help me frame my offer.
Hey mate, best to sort it out of court. You are right solicitors will make you spend your money and mostly dad come out worse.
If she gets the kids she will get 80% and again her solicitors/advisors will tell her to make domestic abuse claim and it will get very messy. It will be very hard to see the kids the court will just side with her.