The court considers all the circumstances of the case, giving first consideration to the welfare of any children of the family under the age of 18. The court will consider the following matters:
(a) The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each spouse has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future including, in the case of earning capacity, any increase in that capacity which it would be, in the opinion of the court, reasonable to expect a person to take steps to acquire.
(b) The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each spouse has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future.
(c) The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage.
(d) The ages of each spouse and the duration of the marriage.
(e) Any physical or mental disability of each spouse.
(f) The contributions which each spouse has made or is likely to make in the foreseeable future to the welfare of the family, including any contribution by looking after the home or caring for the family.
(g) The conduct of each spouse, if that conduct is such that it would in the opinion of the Court be inequitable to disregard.
(h) The value to each spouse of any benefit which one spouse because of the divorce will lose the chance of acquiring (most usually pension provision).
The aim of the court is to achieve fairness. Following a Court decision in a case called White v White, the court will look at an equal division of assets built up during the marriage, unless the marriage was of short duration, or the assets are insufficient to satisfy needs of the parties, particular housing. However, often a decisive factor is the reasonable needs (especially housing needs) of yourself and your spouse, which can override an equal division of assets.
Practically, both parties will usually need to provide evidence of their financial position, e.g valuation of properties & pensions, wage slips and bank statements. Both parties will normally fill in a Form E which is a form that sets out all income, assets and liabilities. This will enable the Court to know what is in the matrimonial pot. Arguments can then be formed as to how those assets are divided.
It is possible to agree a financial settlement without having to ever to go to Court. If an agreement can be reached before Court, a consent order can be submitted to the Judge in the post.