Bill Gates Divorce: Can finances be divided amicably?

Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda recently announced their intention to divorce after 27 years of marriage.

Having reportedly accumulated an extraordinary wealth of $130 billion, it was no surprise that the media response was live with speculation as to how their significant assets would be divided out upon divorce, particularly as it transpired that the couple had not entered into a pre-nupital agreement prior to their marriage.

However, it has since been reported that divorce papers filed by the couple make repeated reference to a “separation contract” which both have signed. It appears therefore that the couple, who share three children as well as business and charitable commitments, wish to have the marriage dissolved and assets divided in as amicable a manner as possible.

Can dividing assets on divorce be handled amicably in Northern Ireland?

Where there are financial issues arising following breakdown of the marriage, it is not necessary to ask the Court to determine how these should be divided. It is very common for parties who wish to avoid the stress and expense of Court proceedings to enter into negotiations with one another through their solicitors with a view to reaching a financial settlement on an agreed and amicable basis. This is known as a Matrimonial Agreement.

If an agreement can be reached, it will be drawn up into a legally binding document to be signed by both parties and often made an Order of the Court upon Divorce.

Increasingly these agreements are made on a “clean break” basis. That means that they set out what each parties’ entitlements are to family finances and provide that neither party will have a claim to the other’s finances in the future.

A solicitor specialising in divorce and separation can provide advice and assistance in negotiating Matrimonial Agreements with a view to reaching financial settlement. If settlement is not possible in this way, either spouse can ask the Court to make decisions about how assets should be divided. This does however tend to be a longer and more expensive process for both parties.

For further information on Matrimonial Agreements, feel free to contact us here

International Divorce : Things To Consider

The world is becoming a smaller place with ever greater opportunities for people to travel and work abroad.   Increasing numbers of people are meeting and marrying someone from another country and as such, many families now have both a multicultural and an international dimension which would have been far less prevalent a decade ago.
If this family unit breaks down, there are a number of additional issues which can arise.  Here are some of the ways an international dimension can have an impact on family breakdown:
1. It may be possible for divorce proceedings to be brought in more than one jurisdiction.

The choice of jurisdiction can have a significant impact on the outcome of divorce proceedings as different countries apply different sets of rules, especially when it comes to the division of assets. It may be financially advantageous to a spouse to issue proceedings in one jurisdiction rather than another.  It is extremely important to seek legal advice about the different jurisdictional options at the very earliest stage as often the Court where proceedings are first issued will be the Court which ultimately decides the case.

2. There may be a limit in the Court’s power to enforce Orders in relation to property or assets in another jurisdiction.

On divorce, there may be a limit to what a Court can do in relation to assets held in another jurisdiction. For example, if a couple own a holiday home abroad, there may be difficulties in enforcing a Court order dealing with this foreign asset.

3. There may be issues regarding where the children should live in the future.

After the breakdown of a relationship, one parent may wish to move back to their country of origin with their children.  However, if they do this without the consent of the other parent or permission from the Court, they could well be accused of abducting their child and proceedings could be brought for the return of the child to the place in which they had been living. Indeed, in some countries these actions could amount to a criminal offence.  It is crucial that legal advice is taken so that you are fully informed before deciding how to proceed. It is also important if your child has been taken without consent that you take steps as soon as possible if you wish for them to be returned.

Could a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement help?

One way to try to avoid the uncertainty of what may happen should a relationship break down is to enter into an agreement while the relationship is working well. Whilst these agreements are regarded by some as unromantic, they are a practical way of agreeing what should happen if things don’t work out. Such an agreement could record what would happen to the assets following relationship breakdown.  It could also record the parties’ intentions about the children such as where they would live, their maintenance and education. The agreement could also settle which Court would have legal jurisdiction if there is a dispute.

Many countries recognise pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements or at the very least take its terms into account when ascertaining what the parties’ intentions had been. It is important to find out if the jurisdiction in which you will be living would do so.

If you would like further information on any legal aspect of divorce, please feel free to contact us confidentially here or leave your comments below

A Simple Guide to Divorce Procedure in NI

weddingrings

Ending a marriage can be one of the most difficult and stressful times in a person’s life.

Making the decision to end your marriage brings with it many worries and fears about how life will change upon divorce. The last thing that any person going through a divorce wants to worry about is having to navigate a long, complicated legal process to reach the end result.
It will be a relief to many that the legal procedure for divorce here in Northern Ireland is fairly straightforward. We have put together below some information for you to explain how this process works.

What is the procedure for divorce?

The first step in getting divorce is to issue what is known as a Divorce Petition. This is simply a document which sets out details needed by the Judge to consider your divorce. Importantly, the Petition will detail the grounds on which you are applying for a divorce. If you are the person who has filed for divorce, you will be referred to as the ‘Petitioner’ in these proceedings and your spouse will be referred to as ‘the Respondent’.

The Divorce Petition, once finalised, is then stamped by the Court and served on your spouse who is asked to complete an Acknowledgement of Service Form and lodge this with the Court. This form will confirm that your spouse has received the divorce papers and will detail whether they intend to defend your Petition for divorce.

If your spouse is not challenging the divorce, the case will then be listed for a Decree Nisi hearing.

What is a Decree Nisi hearing?

This is the initial hearing where the Judge will have to determine whether your marriage has irretrievably broken down.   You must attend at Court and give evidence at this hearing.   If the Judge is satisfied that the grounds for divorce have been met, a Decree Nisi is granted – this is an Order stating that are entitled to obtain a Divorce.

Am I divorced after I get my Decree Nisi??

No. The Decree Nisi is simply the first stage of the divorce. In order to be fully legally divorced, you must obtain a Decree Absolute.  You may apply for a Decree Absolute six weeks and one day after the Decree Nisi hearing. Your Solicitor makes the application for a Decree Absolute after this time has passed and you are not required to attend at Court.

What about the family finances and property?

Often, if the division of the family finances and property has not been agreed between you and your spouse, Court proceedings would then be issued to decide how to divide the finances. These proceedings are called Ancillary Relief proceedings.  In cases where the family finances and property have not been finalised, the Petitioner is generally advised not to apply for the Decree Absolute until after the finances are resolved.  This is because both parties could lose certain rights such as widow pension benefits.

How much will a Divorce cost?

There will be Court fees payable for issuing divorce proceedings.  These include a fee for the issuing of the divorce petition, setting the case down for Hearing and then obtaining a copy of the Decree Absolute.  These fees increase every tax year and details can be found on the NI Courts website.   There will be solicitor’s professional costs on top of this.  Most solicitors will give a quote for a divorce in advance of lodging anything with the Court.   Legal Aid may be available depending on your financial circumstances.

If Ancillary Relief proceedings are issued to resolve the financial matters after Decree Nisi, legal costs are likely to be calculated on a time-spent basis.  It is important that you speak with your solicitor about costs before issuing proceedings.

What about the future?

If you had made a Will before getting divorced, it is important to review this after your divorce. Once a divorce has been granted, any part of a Will leaving property to your former spouse will be invalid.

Although a divorce ends your marriage, often you and your former spouse will have to continue to share a relationship with one another for the sake of your children. It is therefore in everyone’s interests to try to ensure that the divorce, if at all possible, is dealt as amicably as possible so that despite your differences at the end of their marriage, you can both move on to the next stage of your lives.

If you would like more information on the legal process of divorce or if you have a query regarding your own divorce, please do not hesitate to contact us here or leave your comments confidentially below.

*October 2015

 

Civil Partnerships

couplehands

Up until recently, whilst same-sex couples were able enter into a Civil Partnership, they were not legally permitted to marry.  In the same token, heterosexual couples were able to marry but were not permitted to enter into a civil partnership.

However, on 13th January 2020 in an historic day in Northern Ireland, same sex couples became legally able to give notice of their intent to marry to the General Register Office for Northern Ireland.  Allowing for a minimum notice period of 28 days, this means that Northern Ireland will see its first same sex marriages from February 2020.

The change in legislation further allows for heterosexual couples to be able to enter into civil partnerships with one another rather than marry.

This progressive change in our law affords all couples in Northern Ireland the option to either enter into a civil partnserhip with one another or to get married.

What are the rights of couples who enter into a Civil Partnership??

Under the Civil Partnership Act 2004 and the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act 2019, all couples entering into a civil partnership essentially have the same legal rights as couples who have entered into a civil marriage.

By entering into a civil partnership, couples will acquire, amongst others, the following legal rights and responsibilities:-

  • The same rights to property as married couples -for example, they may by law have rights over their partner’s property even if they are not on the title deeds
  • They are considered their partner’s legal ‘next of kin’ – for example, if their partner is sick in hospital, they would be entitled to information about their medical treatment
  • The same rights of inheritance as married couples – for example, if their partner died without making a Will, they would be treated as next of kin and are able to inherit from their partner’s Estate.
  • Entitlement to the same inheritance tax exemptions as married couples – ie they can leave their assets upon death to their partner without being hit with inheritance tax.
  • The same recognition for immigration and nationality purposes
I have separated from my civil partner – what are my rights??

If civil partners separate, the law allows for property issues, maintenance matters and pension entitlement to all be dealt with in the same way as if the couple were a married couple going through a divorce.

When issues between civil partners can’t be resolved by agreement, the Court can adjudicate on how property and pensions should be divided out or how much maintenance should be paid by one partner to the other – much the same way as if the couple were married and divorcing.

If you would like any further information on the law surrounding civil partnerships, please feel free to contact us confidentially here or leave your comments below.

 

A Simple Guide to Divorce Procedure in NI

weddingrings

Ending a marriage can be one of the most difficult and stressful times in a person’s life.

Making the decision to end your marriage brings with it many worries and fears about how life will change upon divorce. The last thing that any person going through a divorce wants to worry about is having to navigate a long, complicated legal process to reach the end result.
It will be a relief to many that the legal procedure for divorce here in Northern Ireland is fairly straightforward. We have put together below some information for you to explain how this process works.

What is the procedure for divorce?

The first step in getting divorce is to issue what is known as a Divorce Petition. This is simply a document which sets out details needed by the Judge to consider your divorce. Importantly, the Petition will detail the grounds on which you are applying for a divorce. If you are the person who has filed for divorce, you will be referred to as the ‘Petitioner’ in these proceedings and your spouse will be referred to as ‘the Respondent’.

The Divorce Petition, once finalised, is then stamped by the Court and served on your spouse who is asked to complete an Acknowledgement of Service Form and lodge this with the Court. This form will confirm that your spouse has received the divorce papers and will detail whether they intend to defend your Petition for divorce.

If your spouse is not challenging the divorce, the case will then be listed for a Decree Nisi hearing.

What is a Decree Nisi hearing?

This is the initial hearing where the Judge will have to determine whether your marriage has irretrievably broken down.   You must attend at Court and give evidence at this hearing.   If the Judge is satisfied that the grounds for divorce have been met, a Decree Nisi is granted – this is an Order stating that are entitled to obtain a Divorce.

Am I divorced after I get my Decree Nisi??

No. The Decree Nisi is simply the first stage of the divorce. In order to be fully legally divorced, you must obtain a Decree Absolute.  You may apply for a Decree Absolute six weeks and one day after the Decree Nisi hearing. Your Solicitor makes the application for a Decree Absolute after this time has passed and you are not required to attend at Court.

What about the family finances and property?

Often, if the division of the family finances and property has not been agreed between you and your spouse, Court Proceedings would then be issued to decide how to divide the finances. These proceedings are called Ancillary Relief proceedings.  In cases where the family finances and property have not been finalised, the Petitioner is generally advised not to apply for the Decree Absolute until after the finances are resolved.  This is because both parties could lose certain rights such as widow pension benefits.

How much will a Divorce cost?

There will be Court fees payable for issuing divorce proceedings.  these include a fee for the issuing of the divorce petition, setting the case down for Hearing and then obtaining a copy of the Decree Absolute.  these fees increase every tax year though are currently around £600-£700.00.   There will be solicitor’s professional costs on top of this.  Most solicitors will give a quote for a divorce in advance of lodging anything with the Court.   Legal Aid may be available depending on your financial circumstances.

If Ancillary Relief proceedings are issued to resolve the financial matters after Decree Nisi, legal costs are likely to be calculated on a time-spent basis.  It is important that you speak with your solicitor about costs before issuing proceedings.

What about the future?

If you had made a Will before getting divorced, it is important to review this after your divorce. Once a divorce has been granted, any part of a Will leaving property to your former spouse will be invalid.

Although a divorce ends your marriage, often you and your former spouse will have to continue to share a relationship with one another for the sake of your children. It is therefore in everyone’s interests to try to ensure that the divorce, if at all possible, is dealt as amicably as possible so that despite your differences at the end of their marriage, you can both move on to the next stage of your lives.

If you would like more information on the legal process of divorce or if you have a query regarding your own divorce, please do not hesitate to contact claire or karen by email or leave your comments confidentially below.

*October 2015