Former Girls Aloud singer Cheryl Cole and her soon-to-be ex-husband Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini, were reportedly granted Decree Nisi in 14 seconds at the Central Family Court in London, but are now rumoured to be embroiled in a dispute over a ring gifted to the singer, which is said to be an heirloom of Mr Fernandez Versini’s family.

The ring, which previously belonged to Jean-Bernard’s late mother, is said not to have been discussed in negotiations during the divorce, which is unusual, as all assets but particularly valuable assets should be disclosed as part of the exchange of financial information through solicitors during divorce proceedings. Cheryl is quoted in the Mail Online as saying she had ‘completely forgotten’ about the ring as Jean-Bernard had never raised this during negotiations. With the asset having been given to Cheryl, the onus would have been on her to disclose it. However, in failing to do so, one would have expected Jean-Bernard to raise this prior to financial settlement having been reached, particularly given that the ring is said to be worth a staggering £300,000. This highlights just how important it is to include and consider all assets on both sides when divorcing, in order to reduce stress and arguments that can occur later as well as the risk of an unfair outcome.

What assets should be considered?

Dividing the assets in a divorce can be one of the hardest and most upsetting aspects in the entire process, as what was once “ours” becomes “mine” or “yours”. You may have had to work hard throughout your life to buy your home, build up investments such as pensions or start a business; the divorce puts those things in jeopardy and the uncertainty of what may happen to them can cause considerable stress. You might also worry about what will happen to possessions which carry a sentimental value such as heirlooms, gifts and inherited property.

If you can agree matters with your ex, you can retain greater control and with the help of lawyers, this agreement can be recorded in a format suitable for the Court, avoiding the uncertainty that comes with asking the Court to determine matters in a financial order. You can also include within the ‘Consent Order’ the terms of an agreement on how you will deal with assets which the Court does not have authority to make orders on, including things like jewellery, cars, furniture and antiques.

How a court splits assets

Assets are divided in the fairest way possible, however the starting point in any divorce is to divide assets on a 50:50 basis. Reasons to defer from this can be considered by the Judge, who will decide on the division of assets based on numerous factors:

  • The length of the marriage or civil partnership
  • The ages of those divorcing
  • Property and money owned
  • Living expenses
  • Standard of living
  • Roles within the marriage or civil partnership; i.e. If there is only one Breadwinner or a primary care giver.

It is possible to argue successfully that certain assets, such as inheritance, should be ring-fenced from the pool of matrimonial assets available, but this will largely depend on how this asset was used during the course of the relationship and whether the parties’ needs are met sufficiently without the need to use the inheritance.

How to reach an agreement

Sometimes couples are able to reach agreement between themselves about their finances, but often lawyers are needed to advise on the implications of any agreement, negotiate its terms and incorporate it into a binding ‘Consent Order’.

For those who are unsure where to start in trying to reach agreement, some divorcing couples find using mediation beneficial, because it provides a neutral third party for support, it can save time and may reduce emotional upset and stress. Mediation is suitable for most couples, although it is particularly helpful where there are children, as one of its aims is to encourage parties to communicate between themselves and to consider the other party’s point of view. As parents will most likely need to be able to discuss their children in the years to come, mediation could provide a foundation for a better relationship between them after the divorce.

If attending mediation, it is important to seek advice from a lawyer throughout the process and to record your agreed settlement within a Consent Order to ensure that it is enforceable as well to achieve finality or a ‘clean break’ where this is possible.

What happens to undeclared assets?

Problems can arise with undeclared assets as in the case of Cheryl Cole, caught up in a dispute with her estranged husband over a ring gifted to her to celebrate their first anniversary. In this case, unless Jean-Bernard can prove that it was expressly intended to be returned to him in the event of divorce, then Cheryl is entitled to keep the ring whether it was bought or gifted. If the ring had been included in the assets to divide pre-divorce, this unpleasant dispute could have been discussed and settled along with the matrimonial pool of assets, enabling this to have been settled much earlier if not, be avoided altogether.

If you are thinking about divorce, or any family law matter, give our specialist family and matrimonial team a call on 0161 930 5151 or fill in our online contact form and we will call you back at the earliest opportunity.

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