Sharing out the marriage assets - Form E
Deciding ‘who gets what’ can be one of the thorniest issues in a divorce, aside from the arrangements for children. It is often cheaper for both of you to sort out any financial arrangements yourselves. However, you can ask a court to decide for you by applying for a financial order – known as Form E.
The court will give you about 12 to 16 weeks to fill in Form E in preparation for the hearing. This may seem like a long time, but there is a lot to get organised and you’ll need to send off for a number of documents. In most cases it’s best to engage a solicitor to handle this process for you, but it’s still very useful for you to understand Form E and how it works.
How do I fill in Form E?
Both you and your ex-spouse will need to complete your own separate copy of Form E. The judge will use both documents to assess the marriage assets so they can be fairly divided between you. It’s therefore very important to complete your Form E as accurately and honestly as possible.
N.B. Where you’ve previously been referred to as the petitioner (person who starts the divorce proceedings) and respondent (person who is responding to the initial request), the petitioner will now be called the applicant.
An at-a-glance summary of Form E
Form E is divided into five sections, as follows.
Section 1 – Details about you and your family
This is a relatively simple section. There are just a few potential stumbling blocks to flag up:
- 1.10 – Children of the family. This doesn’t mean only biological children – it’s all the children you considered part of the family when you were together, including step and adopted children.
- 1.11 – Health conditions you think should be taken into consideration. Any conditions you list should be those that have affected your income. You’ll need medical evidence of these.
- 1.15 – Court proceedings between you and your ex-spouse. You must include all proceedings, whether ongoing or already resolved.
Section 2 – Financial details
Unsurprisingly, this is the biggest section. It asks you about property and assets that you and/or your ex personally own. You can skip any sections that don’t apply (e.g. there is a section only for people who own a business). Here are a few additional pointers:
2.1 – The family home. If you’ve already sold it, you don’t need to fill this in. For any details you don’t know, either contact your mortgage provider or put ‘Don’t know’.
2.3 – Bank, building society accounts and savings accounts. Include any you’ve held in the past 12 months, including joint accounts, those that are empty or overdrawn and accounts no longer open. The balances should be as up-to-date as possible, so fill these out at the end.
2.8 – Possessions worth over £500. Note that this refers to their current value, not what you originally paid for them.
2.9 – Liabilities. These are any debts you may have (other than your mortgage), e.g. short-term loans, credit card debt.
2.10 – Capital Gains Tax. What you’d pay in tax if you sold an asset that has increased in value. A financial adviser or accountant can help you with this.
2.13 – Pension. Include details of any workplace or personal pensions (the state pension doesn’t count for the purposes of this form). Your pension provider(s) or a financial adviser can give you an accurate valuation.
2.14 – Income. All the necessary information will be on your P60 or P45, if you’re an employee. If you have multiple sources of earnings, or your own business, be sure to include everything that counts as income (e.g. rent, dividends, income from pensions).
Section 3 – Financial requirements
This covers your financial needs, and the needs of any children who will be living with you. You may need to take considerable time working this out, in order to arrive at an accurate and realistic figure. When stating your income needs, provide details of why that money is needed, with supporting evidence if necessary in an attached document. If the judge decides your requirements are fair and reasonable, you should be awarded the necessary assets – once your ex-spouses requirements are also taken into account. This is why it’s good to make as strong a case as you can, if there are grounds for dispute.
Section 4 – Other information
This asks for details on significant changes to your finances, information on your lifestyle when you were together and for any other factors that may limit how much you can earn. If you’ve already sent the form and something significant changes, you should let the court know. Be careful of:
4.4 – Bad behaviour. Only particularly bad behaviour (such as abuse) is relevant here, so seek advice if you feel something should be mentioned.
Section 5 – Order sought
This is your chance to indicate what you would like the outcome of the proceedings to be. It’s worthwhile seeking advice here, as it could heavily impact the result. At the very least, you might find it helpful to say you want full disclosure before the hearing of what your ex-spouse is seeking, to avoid any surprises.
Tips for filling out Form E
Get started early – You must send the form at least 35 days before your hearing, enclosing a number of documents (listed on the last page). It may take some time to get hold of all these, so don’t delay.
Keep written requests and information of calls – Make copies or recordings of any document requests you sent. If you make an enquiry over the phone, make a note of the date and what was discussed. Then, if something doesn’t arrive on time, you can show you’ve tried to source it.
Be truthful – If you get facts wrong, the judge may look at your case unfavourably. At worst, you could be accused of perjury if the error is judged to be deliberate. This extends to calculations, so be sure to get these double checked.
Fill in the date last of all – The date on the form should be the date you send it off. You could put a sticky note on the document so you don’t forget.
If in doubt, include it – The judge will decide what’s relevant, so include all the information you can.
Get property and possessions professionally valued – Don’t try to work out valuations yourself as you may be inaccurate (see ‘Be truthful’ above). Always turn to an expert.
Contact companies for information – Although you can write ‘Don’t know’ if you’re unsure of some answers, it will help your case to know as much as you can. Some information will be on original documents, and you can directly contact organisations such as pension providers and the land registry.
If in doubt, get advice – Form E may be the most complex form you ever have to fill in – and also one of the most important with regard to your future financial security. To maximise your chances of success, find a solicitor who specialises in divorce.
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