Reaching a Financial Settlement After Your Marriage Ends
When a marriage ends, a primary concern for many couples is how they will divide their assets, liabilities, and financial resources. To be able to do this, a financial agreement must be reached that determines how property, savings, investments, and debts will be divided. Agreements may also cover ongoing financial arrangements such as spousal support and child maintenance. However, reaching a financial settlement with your spouse may not always be plain sailing. If you are unable to agree to the terms of your separation or divorce, your case may need to be decided by a court.
At McCarthy + Co, our team has extensive experience in helping couples who are ending their marriage to reach a fair and equitable financial settlement. If you have come to the difficult decision to end your marriage, and you require assistance with any of the financial aspects of its closure, our team can help you to understand Ireland’s no-fault divorce system and the most advisable routes you can take to avoid a costly, protracted court case.
Reaching a financial settlement is dependent on numerous factors but can be achieved via the following methods:
- A Separation Agreement – if married or civil partners can agree on the terms by which they will live separately, they can enter into a legally binding Separation Agreement that sets out each partner’s rights and obligations, including the division of assets and financial arrangements. A legal separation is often the most desirable path forward as it enables you to address financial matters as soon as the relationship ends, allowing you to both to move on with your lives.
- A Judicial Separation – if a couple are unable to agree on the terms by which they will live separately, they can apply for a decree of judicial separation. The application can be made on one or more of the following grounds: adultery; unreasonable behaviour; having lived apart continuously for a year or more and both in agreement to the decree; having lived apart for three years; or not having a “normal marital status” for longer than a year. The court will rule on financial arrangements making this option less favourable compared to a Separation Agreement where both partners are in full agreement on the terms.
- A Decree of Divorce – some couples may decide not to formally separate after the end of their marriage. In this circumstance, it is not possible to apply for a divorce until the couple have lived apart for 2 out of the previous 3 years at the date of the application. The ease of the divorce process will then depend upon whether it is amicable or contested. Finalising a divorce tends to be much more straightforward when there is a Separation Agreement or decree of judicial separation in place.
In summary, then, a legal separation following the end of your marriage allows you to resolve financial matters much faster compared to the divorce process. However, legal separation does not give you the right to remarry. Financial settlements are much easier to reach when both couples agree over the terms of their separation. Couples who have not formally separated may find obtaining a decree of divorce more longwinded, depending upon how amicable relations are with your spouse.
Whatever the status of your relationship, be it amicable or contested, it’s highly advisable to seek legal counsel when attempting to resolve matters relating to financial settlements. You can contact our team for confidential support using our online consultation form today, and we will arrange a time for you to speak to one of our solicitors.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Questions we are often asked in relation to divorce & separation.
Why should I hire a lawyer to help reach a financial settlement?
Lawyers help you to reach a fair settlement by providing expert legal advice, negotiating with your spouse’s legal team, and navigating the complexities of Irish family law. They assess the total value of your shared assets and liabilities, ensure full financial disclosure, and advocate for a fair distribution based on legal principles and individual circumstances. A lawyer also protects your best interests by ensuring that settlements are equitable and enforceable. If negotiations stall, a lawyer can represent you in court to seek a judicial determination on the financial matters in dispute.
How are financial settlements legally enforced?
Financial settlements in divorce and separation cases are legally enforced through court orders. Once a financial agreement is reached, either through negotiation or a court decision, it becomes a legally binding obligation. If one party fails to comply with the terms of the settlement, the other party can seek enforcement through the court. This may involve penalties, garnishment of wages, liens on property, or other legal remedies to ensure compliance. Non-compliance can result in contempt of court charges, which may carry additional penalties.
How is property divided following divorce or separation?
In Ireland, courts strive for a fair distribution of assets, property, and finances. They consider several factors, including the marriage's length, both spouses' financial and non-financial contributions, and individual needs, which might not always lead to an equal split. Crucially, only assets acquired during the marriage are subject to division, while personal property, such as pre-marital assets or those received as gifts or inheritance, generally stays with its original owner.
How is a pension split?
Courts typically address pension matters using one of three methods:
- Pension sharing – which involves transferring a set percentage of one spouse's pension to the other, often as a lump sum.
- Pension offsetting – which allows one party to keep their pension, but they relinquish rights to another asset, like the family home.
- Pension attachment – where a segment of the pension is periodically disbursed to the other spouse, functioning much like a maintenance or support payment.
Clíodhna O’Regan leads the family law department at McCarthy + Co. Clíodhna’s educational background includes studying law and European studies at the University of Limerick, even completing a semester in Madrid where she navigated the complexities of law in Spanish.
Clíodhna can be contacted via email at: email@example.com
About McCarthy + Co
McCarthy + Co. are a team of solicitors with more than 30 years of experience in providing legal advice, guidance and assistance to clients across Ireland.
We are a family-run business with offices in Dublin and Cork, but we have dealt with clients everywhere from Galway and Limerick to Waterford. We are honest, plain-speaking and thorough – we will work alongside you to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.
Our Awards & Accreditations
We are a multi-award winning firm, accredited by the Law Society of Ireland.
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Flor McCarthy wears multiple hats, not only as the managing partner of one of Ireland’s leading law firms, but also as an author, speaker and an acknowledged expert in client service, innovation and marketing.
Beginning his academic journey at UCC, Flor furthered his education with a master’s degree in law from UCD. After gaining valuable experience as a solicitor in Dublin, the allure of home and the family brought him back to West Cork to contribute his expertise to the family business.
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John McCarthy is a seasoned solicitor with almost 20 years of experience, specialises in personal injury and medical negligence claims, focusing particularly on high-value compensation cases. His extensive litigation experience spans Circuit Court, High Court and Supreme Court levels.
John's practice involves a diverse range of cases, from personal injury and wrongful death to property damage, defective products, professional negligence and judicial reviews.