For those of you going through a divorce or civil partnership dissolution you are likely to be aware of the dreaded Form E document. You have probably stared at the blank form and thought “I don’t know where to start”! Don’t panic. It’s not as bad as you think.
One of the most important principles when resolving financial matters following divorce or dissolution is that both parties should provide full and frank financial disclosure. This means that you and your former partner are obliged to provide very specific details of your financial positions.
The most common way is by completing an extensive form called a Form E Financial Statement. The Form E obliges each party to disclose absolutely everything of financial relevance, including amongst other things, all property, assets, liabilities, bank accounts, credit cards, business interests, pensions, endowments, earnings from employment, self-employment, investments etc.
The Form E is a very important document. It not only sets out your financial position but it also sets out what you want to achieve by way of a financial settlement and your justification for seeking such a settlement. Completing the form can be very time consuming. A large part of the form is collating data and documentation so do not underestimate how long it may take to obtain the relevant documentation. It’s not a form that should be rushed and it is important that you do not miss anything. Whilst the form can be completed without legal advice I would certainly recommend that you instruct a solicitor to assist you with the completion of the form – it will be money well spent.
My tips for completing a Form E
- The form is divided into sections and requires you to provide a lot of supporting documentation. It is easy to forget something. I suggest that you get yourself a lever arch folder with some dividers (at least 15) so that you can insert the necessary document in accordance with each section of the form.
- Read the form through first so that you can make notes of what documents and information you will need to find or obtain.
- Tick each section off as you insert the required documents into your folder.
- Ask 2 or 3 estate agents to provide you with a written market appraisal of the family home. You will also need to obtain a recent mortgage statement and find out whether there would be any penalties if you redeem the mortgage.
- You will be required to provide 12 months statements for ALL your bank and building society accounts which you have had an interest in over the last 12 months (even if they are now closed or have a nil balance or overdraft). If you are missing any statements then you will need to speak to the specific organisations and ask them to send you copies. Missing bank statements is common. Your bank is obliged to provide up to 6 years’ worth of statements provided that you state clearly that you are making the request under the Data Protection Act 1998. Keep all the statements for each account separate and ensure they are in chronological order without any gaps.
- You will need to refer to all credit and store cards even if they have a nil balance. Although not strictly necessary to provide copy statements for each card it makes sense to provide them at an early stage as they are likely to be requested later on in any event.
- If you run your own business or are self employed I would recommend that you pass the relevant pages of the Form E to your accountant at an early stage and ask for their assistance in completing and providing the relevant information.
- An up to date valuation of your pension(s) will be required. Most schemes send members a valuation once a year as a matter of course. If you received one recently, it may not be necessary for you to apply for another. If you do not have a recent statement then you will need to apply to the pension scheme for a Cash Equivalent Transfer Value (CETV). The pension provider should be able to provide this if you send them a copy the relevant page of the Form E. Pension valuations can take a long time to come in so it is worth applying for these as soon as you can.
- Think carefully about your income needs. Your lawyer should be able to provide you with an ‘outgoings questionnaire’ to work with. This can be difficult but I would suggest that you go through your bank statements for the previous year to help assess what you spend on living expenses on a monthly basis. You need to include everything such as utility bills, food, car, mortgage, clothes etc.
Hopefully, the above tips will enable you to at least make a comprehensive start on your Form E. The more you can do yourself the less your lawyer will need to do and therefore the smaller your legal costs will be. However, if you feel the Form E is beyond you then of course your lawyer will be only too happy to assist. I would suggest that you make an appointment with your lawyer so that you can go through the Form together.