Applying for Ancillary Relief

What is Ancillary Relief

Once a Petition for divorce has been filed at court, either one of the parties to the marraige can apply to the same court in relation to the financial aspects of the divorce.

An application relating to the division of the finances of the divorce is called an Ancillary Relief application.

Ancillary Relief is where a married person applies to court asking for the court to consider how the assets of the married couple ought to be divided between the couple after the divorce.

The purpose of Ancillary Relief proceedings is to divide the matrimonial assets according to the needs and requirements of the parties.

Normally the law will look to split the assets of the marriage on a 50/50 basis. However; this is not always possible given that many married couples have only modest savings and assets and very often there are mitigating factors such as the needs of children which must also be considered by the courts.

Mitigating factors will very often be reason for the courts to derogate from a simple 50/50 division in favour of the financially weaker party to the marriage.

In most divorces there is only one property, the matrimonial home and even then, this is almost always subject to a mortgage.

There may also be children who despite the divorce, still need looking after and insofar as possible the law tries to meet the needs of these children.

Who can apply for ancillary relief?

Either party to the marriage can apply for Ancillary Relief. Contrary to popular belief there is no bias in favour of the applicant.

Can we simply agree finances informally between ourselves?

Not a good idea. No agreement is binding unless filed at the court by the parties when divorcing.

Where an agreement is not filed at the court formally then either party could in theory change their minds and apply to teh court for the process of Ancillary Relief to start.

Applications for Ancillary Relief can be brought years after the marriage has ended and even long after a divorce.

Therefore it is highly recommended that these matters are dealt with at the time of the divorce. For more information see our article Divorce and Consent Orders

How long is the process of ancillary relief?

This depends on how complicated the issues are and how far apart the parties are from agreement.

Where there is an amicable agreement it can be done in a couple of months.

In other cases it can take a year or even longer. On average, these types of matters take around 9 months from start to finish.

Ancillary Relief Overview

Ancillary Relief in England and Wales is the name given to the process whereby the financial arrangements of a divorcing couple are negotiated and formalised in the form of a court order.

Either one of the parties to the marriage can file an application for Ancillary Relief at the court. However; an application for Ancillary Relief can only be filed after a Divorce Petition has been filed at the court.

When assessing an application for Ancillary Relief, the law often applies the ‘needs’ principal.

This effectively asks the court to look at the future ‘needs’ of the divorcing couple and consider what these may be and how best these can be served, taking account of the assets available.

Of course the courts can only divide those assets which are available and in cases where there are no significant assets then of course there will be very little to divide.

Sometime assets are so few that it is not even worth pursuing them. However; in most cases there will be at least a matrimonial home, albeit mortgaged, and perhaps some savings or investments.

There may also be issues surrounding pensions and perhaps even shares in a company.

Not all cases will be treated the same. A situation where there are modest assets will be looked at differently by the courts than one where there are substantial assets.

Financial orders that the courts have power to make in Ancillary Relief proceedings:

Maintenance orders
This is where the court Orders one of the parties to the marriage to make maintenance payments or periodical payments to the other party to the marriage. These types of payments are usually for a limited period of time and do not continue indefinitely.

Lump sum orders
This is where the court Orders one spouse to make a single payment of a lump sum of money to the other spouse. Lump Sum Orders can be ordered in addition to Maintenance Orders in some circumstances.

Transfers of property
This is where the court Orders one party to the marriage to transfer property to the other spouse.

This order is often made in relation to the former matrimonial home. However this type of a court Order can be made in relation to many different types of property including tenancies and shares in companies.

Pension Sharing Orders
This is where the court Orders the sharing or transfer of pensions between divorcing parties.

These Orders are often made to ensure that divorcing couples have equal pension rights when the reach retirement age.

The Court

It is important to bear in mind that the extent to which the court is likely to make each of these Orders depends very much on the circumstances of each case. Some cases may involve all of these different Order whereas others involve only one.

The courts will be keen to make an Order that ends the parties financial obligations toward one another as soon as possible. It is also possible for parties to agree the financial aspects of their divorce on a more amicable basis at any stage in teh divorce process.

Agreements relating to finances of divorce still involve the courts, although on a much simpler basis.

Where agreements are reached relating to the finances of divorce, these are embodied in a court Order called a Consent Order.

For more information on Consent Order see:

  1. Common Law marriages and Living Together Agreements
  2. Divorce and Consent Orders
  3. Clean Break Orders in Ancillary Relief proceedings
  4. Uncontested Divorce guide
  5. Challenging and Appealing a Divorce Consent Order
  6. Ancillary Relief proceedings

We Can Help

Should you have any queries about your own personal circumstances, we offer a free 30 minute telephone consultation on 020 8401 7352. Contact us for guidance and advice relating to your particular circumstances.

The information provided in this article is general information only and it is not intended that you should rely on this information as advice relating to your specific circumstances.

Divorce is a potentially complex legal process and you should always ensure that you receive independent legal advice specific to your particular circumstances from a qualified adviser

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