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If they are contested ancillary relief proceedings tend to be the most expensive part of a divorce. This need not be so. If a husband and wife do say they have reached agreement about financial matters (as very many divorcing couples do) a solicitor is likely to reply that he/she cannot give full and considered advice without having all the relevant financial information. That is quite a proper position to take although the client should always remember that he/she is the client and that it is open to him or her to say, "I don't much care about that. I know what the financial position is. Please draft a document which reflects our agreement and submit it to the court so that everything can be finalised." A solicitor faced with such a client would almost certainly seek to protect him/herself against a future negligence claim by insisting such instructions were in writing but with that proviso there is no reason why such instructions should not be carried out after suitable explanations and disclaimers.

However, such clients are very rare. What is much more likely to happen is that the client will be guided by the solicitor as to what the best course of action is. If the client is a wife who is eligible for legal aid then she will almost certainly be advised to apply for it and once it has been granted the work will commence in earnest. Her solicitor will wish to be sure that he/she has the FULL financial picture before even considering what settlement proposals should be made in this particular case. This is called 'full and frank disclosure'. Since the lawyers know that a legally aided client has, in effect, a bottomless purse there is no especial incentive to be anything less than extremely thorough.

In point of fact most husbands do not have bank accounts in Switzerland or the Cayman Islands but the scope for requesting information is much wider than one might imagine. The following gives a flavour of some of the documents or details which might routinely be requested in even quite ordinary cases:-

Bank statements for each and every account covering the last twelve months;
Statements for a similar period for any building society, post office or other account which contains any funds over which the husband has any control whether as beneficial owner or otherwise;
Copies of all credit card statements for the same period;
Copies of pay slips and any other sources of income for the same period;
Details of any expenses necessary earn the above income;
Copy of most recent P60;
Details of any necessary expenditure on providing yourself with a place to live - community charge, water rates, mortgage interest and re-payments, premiums on endowment insurance etc;
Ownership of any car - make, model, year of manufacture, estimated value;
Any property in which you have an interest, including jointly held property, and articles of any substantial value such as jewellery or furniture etc;
Any unpaid debts including hire purchase debts;
Any endowment insurance policies giving details of any premium, date of maturity, surrender value etc;
Details of any pension scheme including details of what the spouse would be entitled to on death, the transfer value, what would be lost on decree absolute etc.

It will readily be seen that it might take some time to get all this information and all sorts of further questions could be asked about any particular parts of it or about details which were incomplete. And this assumes that the recipient is co-operative about the whole process. In reality it is not uncommon for people to resent such intrusion and to be less than fully co- operative which obviously lengthens the whole process still further. And, of course, some of these details require applications to be made to third parties such as insurance companies or pension trustees who have no especial incentive to answer by return of post.

All of this takes up time and runs up costs but what is even worse is if the correspondence becomes acrimonious. It is especially easy for this to happen in divorce cases. An overly blunt letter asking, say, for details of a co-habitee's income can result in point blank refusal which in turn can soon lead to court applications, "unless orders" and/or contempt proceedings. It is all too easy for emotions to take over and in those circumstances no- one benefits but the lawyers. Dealing with all these matters and avoiding all the pitfalls requires considerable skill. And even with such help it will be appreciated that sometimes husbands come out of the process feeling very aggrieved indeed because of the various ways in which the system can be weighted against them. The choice of lawyer is crucially important in this area because poor advice can easily make a bad situation many times worse.

To find out more about other factors such as access to and custody of children in divorce please continue.



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