Financial Disclosure: Guidance on completion of the Form E, and how to do it well
WHAT IS FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE AND WHAT IS A FORM E?
When parties make the decision to bring their marriage to an end, it is often how to divide the matrimonial finances that can cause the greatest confusion to the parties. The first step in reaching an agreement, or otherwise making an application to the Court in respect of finances, is to undergo financial disclosure. This is effectively the approach of both spouses providing an overview of all assets and liabilities they have in their sole name or their share of a joint asset with their spouse (or other individuals) to the other in order for “all cards” to be placed on the table as to how the assets should be divided.
Financial disclosure can take place with mediators in some instances, but in most circumstances specialist lawyers such as ourselves are employed to ensure that that our client fully understands their spouse’s or finances. Otherwise it is down to the individual to be able to critically review the disclosure themselves to see if anything is missing or they have queries on it.
If disclosure takes place via solicitors, financial disclosure tends to take place by the use of a Form E. This can be done on a voluntary basis prior to the start of proceedings, or is court-ordered following the start of court proceedings whereby parties are required to gather and submit their information by a fixed date.
The Form E is effectively a comprehensive snap–shot of an individual’s financial position supported by documentary evidence, and is signed with Statement of Truth (a requirement within Court Proceedings) where the signing party confirms the integrity of the information give, The penalty for knowingly omitting or misrepresenting information is significant and could include being imprisoned or find if held in contempt of court The Form is lengthy and whilst it may be daunting at the outset, a family solicitor will deal with these documents on a daily basis and be very well versed as to how to complete the form with you.
SO WHAT SHOULD I AIM TO INCLUDE WITHIN A FORM E?
In essence, a form E should include everything you have that you know about, whether that is cash in a bank, property, pensions, shares, business interests or debts, in addition to a summary of your monthly outgoings for yourself and your dependants.
Essentials before you even start a form E is to gather information. These are some helpful tips of what to gather:
- Valuations of your property or properties. We usually advise to get three in order to be able to get a realistic view;
- Mortgage statements, including if there is any early redemption penalties;
- 12 months’ worth of bank statements for each account you have, either in your sole name or with an another or others;
- Statements for investments;
- 3 months’ Payslips and P60;
- Accounts for your business(es);
- The Cash Equivalent Transfer Value (CETV) for each pension and confirmation form the DWP as to your state pension entitlement;
- Statements relating to any credits you might receive from the state;
- Confirmation as to whether any insurances you might own have a surrender value;
- Visit an independent financial advisor for a summary of what mortgage capacity you may have;
- A review of what budget you will need to rehouse and financially support yourself, including gaining particulars of suitable properties that you would need to do so. These can often be used to evidence that moving is or is not a realistic prospect.
Once all of this information is gathered it can be incorporated into a Form E. Well prepared financial disclosure will ensure that there can be less critique of your finances, saves time and costs in queries raised as to the content, and is more likely to assist the parties in coming to a satisfactory conclusion. In Court proceedings, a Form E that is not completed correctly, or is found to have omitted information purposefully can lead the court making an order for costs of the other party to be paid. The Court may even make an inference that a refusal to provide information is indicative of a hidden asset which could also prove costly.
SO I HAVE MY SPOUSE’S FORM E, WHAT DO I DO NOW?
Once disclosure is ready by both parties it is simultaneously exchanged, usually by post. Upon arrival of the Form E from the other party, we usually then assist our client by going through the document in fine detail and then further have a meeting to go finalised list of queries, if any, that might be needed. If exchanging on a voluntary basis, queries can be dealt with in correspondence, however, if court proceedings have been issued, this would take place via questionnaires that are submitted to the other party to answer, again in accordance with a court timetable
There is an ongoing duty by all parties to give full and frank financial disclosure in proceedings and therefore updating information will be provided at each stage to ensure information is kept up to date.
If you need assistance in preparing a Form E/ Financial disclosure or reviewing the financial information of your partner or spouse, we at Tolhurst Fisher are able to give practical and client-focused advice in a straightforward way. Call the Matrimonial Team on 01702 352511
Author: Nardia Tribe