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Applying for Ancillary Relief

What is Ancillary Relief or Financial Remedy?

Once a Petition for divorce has been filed at court, either one of the parties to the marriage 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 formally called an Ancillary Relief application. More recently it is called Financial Remedy Proceedings. 

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 starting position for splitting the assets of the marriage are on a 50/50 basis. However; this is not always going to be the case for a whole host of reasons. 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 move away from a simple 50/50 division in favour of the financially weaker party to the marriage.

English law often portray’s itself as offering simple and straightforward solutions to problems. But in practice it can get so complicated that even lawyers get confused. It will come as no surprise that in reality many cases may start being looked at as 50/50 divisions, but end up very different by the end of the case. We have had situations where our client ended up with 100% of the assets in the Financial Remedy proceedings.  

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 and sealed by a judge when divorcing.

Where an agreement is not filed at the court formally then either party could in theory change their minds and apply 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. Technically this can even happen after one of the parties to the divorce dies. 

Therefore it is crucial 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 relatively quickly.

In other disputed cases it can take a year or even longer. On average, disputed Financial Remedy matters take around 9 months from start to finish.

Ancillary Relief Overview

Ancillary Relief, or Financial Remedy proceedings in England and Wales is the name given to the process whereby the financial arrangements of a divorcing couple are ]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 started at the court.

When assessing an application for Ancillary Relief, the law often applies the ‘needs‘ principal. This is certainly not always the case, and in some situations the courts will take a completely different approach.

The ‘Needs Principle‘ 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.

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. The existence of children under 21 will have a huge impact on how the court divides 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. 

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 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. 

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 are very approachable. You can call us on 020 8401 7352 or Contact Us by email at for guidance and advice relating to your particular circumstances or, to book an appointment.

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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