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What If You Cannot Reach an Agreement

Several other options exist even when ex-partners cannot agree on dividing assets. Find out how the court would split money and property and what happens with maintenance payments.

If you cannot reach an agreement yourselves you can ask a court to issue a ‘financial order’. This process now replaces the outdated ‘ancillary relief order’.

In most cases, you must first attend a meeting about mediation (MIAM). But, some exceptions apply (e.g. cases involving domestic abuse).

Deadline to Make a Financial Order

To meet the conditions for asking the court to make a financial order, both of these must apply:

  • You already started the paperwork needed to get divorced or to end a civil partnership.
  • You have not yet made an application to get the final legal document that ends the relationship.

Note: The final legal document to end a marriage is the decree absolute, whereas the final order is the one that ends a civil partnership.

How to Apply for a Financial Order

You must use Form A which is a notice of [intention to proceed with] an application for a financial order. It is a process that allows you to find an agreement on most types of financial affairs, including:

  • A financial settlement or lump sum payment.
  • A share of the Additional State Pension payments that your ex-partner gets.
  • Setting up regular maintenance payments to help with raising children or living expenses.
  • The ownership of a property (or properties).

There are court-handling fees to pay when you apply for a financial order. Send two (2) copies of Form A to the same court that is dealing with the paperwork to get divorced or end the civil partnership. Remember to keep a copy for your own records.

In some cases, you would need to attend a court appointment and several court hearings. It is not a quick process and you should allow between 6 and 12 months to get a final outcome.

How a Court Splits Up Your Assets

A court judge will use several factors to decide on the division of assets. Besides how long you have been married or living in a civil partnership, the judge will also consider:

  • Your ages, abilities to earn an income, and your living expenses.
  • The value of any property or monies that each of the ex-partners have.
  • What standard of living both of the ex-partners have at the present time.
  • The role of each partner in the marriage or civil partnership (e.g. as a breadwinner or a primary carer).

The judge’s decision aims to find the fairest way to split up the assets. It would usually depend on whether there are enough assets to meet the needs of everyone involved.

Even so, the financial arrangements for any children would always come first. The primary concern would be their housing arrangements and child support payments.

Note: The judge will try to arrange a ‘clean break’ when ex-partners cannot agree on splitting up assets. Sharing out everything in a ‘clean’ arrangement removes financial ties to each another.


Paying Tax on Assets | Check out how transferring assets to an ex-partner may be liable to taxation.

Using Mediation | How a mediator can help ex-partners agree on splitting up their money and property.

Making Maintenance Payments

Often, a court will instruct the ex-partner with the highest income to make a ‘maintenance order’. This would be regular maintenance payments made to help towards the living costs of the other person.

If the court sets up a maintenance payment it can either be for:

  • A limited period of time.
  • Until one of the ex-partners marries, enters into a new civil partnership, or dies.

The court can change the maintenance payment if one person loses their job or gets higher paid work. The court can also decide on child maintenance. But, this is most often arranged by the Child Maintenance Service.

Asking a Court to Split Up Assets When Ex-partners Cannot Agree