Wellbeing & Financial Advice

While the financial benefits of advice are often discussed, the value it can add in terms of wellbeing is sometimes overlooked but is just as valuable. This can be particularly important when going through a divorce.

The improvements to wellbeing that financial advice can offer can be difficult to assess. After all, every client will have differing goals, priorities and challenges. Research from Royal London has measured how professional financial advice can support emotional wellbeing.

Financial advice helps people feel in control and confident

The research found that the vast majority of the 17 million people who seek financial advice in the UK benefit from a positive experience. Overall, it helps people to feel confident, in control of their finances and gain peace of mind. Clients rated three key areas that highlight the positive impact of a relationship with a financial adviser:

  • Quality of advice and expertise (82%)
  • Communication style (81%)
  • Trustworthiness (81%)

One of the important ways the report found advice is adding value  through understanding financial matters.

Those receiving advice feel up to three times more confident in their understanding of products and their finances than those who haven’t worked with an adviser. Some 23% of non-advised individuals said they would not know where to start when asked about life insurance, compared to just 7% of those taking financial advice.

The financial settlement and decisions you make at the time of divorce, have a long-lasting impact and it’s important to understand products and your options.

It’s a step that boosts emotional wellbeing. Some 63% of clients said they felt secure and stable, as opposed to 48% who did not receive advice. The report highlighted how it can have an impact on emotions too. Four in ten (41%) of those that do not take financial advice said they feel anxious about their household finances, compared to three in ten (32%) who receive advice.

On average, financial advice clients are £47,000 better off

While the emotional benefits of advice are important, the financial benefits are too. After all, financial freedom can help you to achieve goals and feel more confident about your future.

The report also covers previous research conducted by the International Longevity Centre UK.  It found that customers who took financial advice were on average £47,000 better off. Those who fostered a long-term relationship with their adviser were up to 50% better off than those who received one-off financial advice.

Tom Dunbar, Intermediary Distributions Director at Royal London, said: “We have long suspected that the benefits of advice go far beyond financial gains alone and our research confirms that individuals who have received advice are more likely to feel confident about the future, and less likely to feel anxious or worried.

Pension Sharing : Guidance from the Courts

With many couples separating after having married either later in life or for a second time, the issue of how pensions should be shared and whether pensions should be shared so as to exclude pension accrued prior to that marriage has become a major issue requiring advice from Family Lawyers.

Fortunately in the case of W v H (Divorce financial remedies) [2020] EWFC B10), the Courts have given very welcome guidance as to the approach that should be taken when sharing pensions.

In that particular case the wife was aged 50 and the husband 48. They had lived together since 1999, married in 2005 before then separating in 2016.

The main assets of the marriage were the pensions.

The husband had a large Defined Benefit scheme (schemes which pay out a secure income which increases each year, such as Final Salary or Government Pension Scheme) with a Cash Equivalent  of over £2 million and a small Defined Contribution scheme ( a scheme in which the scheme member builds up a fund which can then be used to buy a retirement income) and the wife had a modest Defined Contribution and Defined Benefit scheme.

The main argument between the parties was

  • Should the pensions be shared to achieve equality of capital value or equality of retirement income?
  • Should the courts exclude that part of the pension that was earned by the husband prior to marriage/cohabitation?

In this case the Court decided to make a pension sharing order which would seek to equalise retirement income.

Furthermore the pension sharing applied to the entirety of the pension rights and did not exclude those accrued by the husband prior to the marriage.

The court stressed that although there is no “one size fits all” solution and that there are situations where equalising capital values may be appropriate for example where pension assets are relatively small, where parties are relatively young, or where pension assets are relatively straightforward, there will also be situations where pension sharing to equalise income would be considered appropriate. These would be cases where:

  • The pensions are medium or large and the parties needs on retirement are required to be met.
  • Where one or more of the pensions is a defined benefit scheme
  • The parties are no longer young and retirement is on the horizon.

The Judge made particular reference to the Report of the Pension Advisory Group (PAG Report) and quoted from the report itself: ‘Given that the object of the pension fund is usually to provide income in retirement, it will often be fair … to implement a pension share that provides equal incomes from that pension asset … Equality of income will often be a fair result … A division that pays little or no attention to income-yield may have the effect of reducing the standard of living of the less well-off party significantly.’

The Judge also rejected the husband’s argument that pension accrued by the husband prior to the marriage should be excluded as this would have resulted in the wife being unable to meet her needs.  The Judge again referred to the PAG report which reported that the vast majority of cases will be needs based and that in needs cases the Court can consider sharing any assets irrespective of when they were acquired in order to meet the parties’ respective  needs.

Pensions are complex assets but The Black Country Collaborative Group are fortunate to have Specialist Family Lawyers and Independent Financial Advisers who will be able to guide separating couples every step of the way to help achieve a fair resolution through the Collaborative Process.

Involving a Financial Neutral can save money

It is always preferable to obtain expert guidance as early as possible.

This is true whatever the situation, but is very important within a Collaborative divorce. By having an expert on hand early they can assist in making sure that the discussions and negotiations are being held from a position of knowledge.

Take an example where an expert is not involved at the start of discussions, maybe due to the perceived added cost of including another professional.  Lawyers are not permitted to provide regulated financial advice and thus it is important that an appropriately qualified professional is introduced to provide support and ensure that negotiations are based on true values.

Say a divorcing couple have their home, cash savings, investments, pensions and an inherited property that is currently rented out.  There will be tax implications for some of these assets both on a transfer as part of the divorce and also selling them in order to provide liquidity, possibly for a further house purchase.

A Financial Neutral is a financial expert with a knowledge of the divorce process, especially Collaborative Law.  They will assist the parties in exploring their future options and suggest ways in which the assets could be split for each party to achieve their future objectives as closely as is possible.

Without this early input, discussions may take asset values at their face value and not account for any tax or inflexibility, thus the agreement may be flawed and whilst the intention may be to have an equal share of the assets the reality may be very different.

By having the neutral involved early they can assess the situation and if they feel they are not required they will step back and observe from a distance, they may be required again later in discussions and as they will already have an understanding of the parties needs will be able to assist as and when required.

The costs of having a neutral involved early in the process are likely to reduce the overall costs rather than increase them and also result in a fairer agreement.

Ian Hawkins is a director of Oculus Wealth Management (Wombourne)Ltd and Southdown Consultants Ltd.  He isboth a Financial Neutral and a PODE (Pension on Divorce Expert) and is thusideally suited to assist lawyers and divorcing couples.

COVID-19 and working with you

COVID-19 has affected us all and impacted upon our lives over the past few months. We have all needed to work together to stay safe. As a group, we want to reassure you that we are available during these unprecedented times.

Safety is paramount and we all have a responsibility to protect one another, especially the more vulnerable members of our community. However, we do have technology in place that will allow us to “meet” virtually and communicate effectively with you.

Importantly, we plan to continue offering the same high level of service, albeit in a non face to face environment.

We are well equipped and also experienced in conducting and carrying our virtual meetings.

Our preferred methods for virtual meetings are either Zoom or Skype, although we can use others.

You can continue to call us on our usual office number. If we are unavailable, please do leave a message. We will get back to you.

The (Re-) Introduction No Fault Divorce – What Does It Mean In Reality?

So, the New Year of 2020 support the immediate reintroduction into Parliament of the much talked about Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill 2019/20.

After two previously aborted attempts to introduce this Bill to Parliament, the first as a result of the Prorogation debacle and the second as a result of the calling of a General Election, it was refreshing to see a majority government acting quickly to reintroduce the Bill to Parliament.

For those that take an interest in this kind of thing, the Bill introduces the promise of no fault divorce being legislated for the first time in UK law. Equally interesting is that there is genuine cross party majority support across the house for the introduction of this legislation.

If enacted, it would also see the end to what has been a 20+ year campaign by Resolution for the introduction of no fault divorce into UK law.

Whilst it is easy to celebrate the introduction of this Bill, it is probably fair to say that given its troubled journey to date, genuine celebration should not begin until the legislation is actually enacted and no fault divorce becomes a fact of the UK legal landscape.

Reflecting on this however has caused me to think more about my role not only as a family lawyer, but also as a trained collaborative family lawyer. For many years now, members of Resolution have been committed to the constructive and non-confrontational approach enshrined in our Code of Practice that is familiar to members and clients alike. 

However, the imminent introduction of no fault divorce brings back into focus for me the positive benefits of engaging in the collaborative family law process in order to resolve issues in relation to children and finances.

To those unfamiliar with the collaborative family law process, both parties instruct independent legal advisers in order to enter into the collaborative process but, as part of that instruction, agree at the outset that there will be no court proceedings and that all discussions will take place face to face in four-way meetings. These meetings often involve the assistance of other neutrals such as accountants, financial advisers, family therapists and barristers.

By taking this approach, it is proven how much more beneficial this can be to enable parties to work through the issues in the most constructive and non-confrontational way and help them retain integrity and respect for each other, and enable them to focus on any children involved.

It is my sincere hope that the introduction of no fault divorce will aid those entering the divorce process to reflect and consider how putting aside blame and fault, and focusing instead on what is really important to bring these difficult matters to a conclusion, can be of huge benefit to all involved.

I for one hope that we will see a higher take-up and more interest from everyone involved in the family law community for the collaborative law process as one of the better ways to resolve any matters that couples and families need to deal with.

It remains to be seen whether this can be achieved but certainly the introduction of this Bill, and thereafter legislation, can only be a positive step in this regard.

Be the best parent you can be

“My 10-year-old daughter keeps telling me how wonderful her dad is, she sees him very occasionally (his choice and pays no maintenance), I am finding it increasingly difficult to keep quiet!”

This has to be amongst one of the most common statements I hear from separated parents in my work as a Relationship Therapist and Family Consultant.

In order to understand more about why this is so difficult, I always ask, “why does hearing about how much your daughter loves her Dad irritate or upset you so much?”

Before separation, as parents, we invest so much time and energy nurturing Mum and Dad relationships with our children. Creating ‘special’ bonds and encouraging time spent with each parent and as a family.

When a couple relationship ends, the ‘journey’ taken by the parents is very different to the ‘journey’ taken by the children.

Research tells us (and so do the children I work with) that a relationship with both parents, when it is safe to do so, is extremely important for children’s mental health.

My clients tell me about their feelings for their ex and how upset, frustrated and angry they feel when their child seems so happy after contact, and that sometimes it is difficult to keep quiet about that parent’s ‘uncooperative’ behaviour whether it concerns maintenance payments or lack of, and how little time they spend with their child.

It might seem the ‘right’ thing to tell your child of their parent’s misgivings but in actual fact this achieves nothing for your child and only moments of justification or moral high ground for you.

Remember that your child is in no position to make sense of or do anything with the information you have given them.

Ask yourself this, “how will telling my child help them to have a good relationship with my ex?”

Before you answer consider these points;

• Your child does not have the same relationship as you had with their mum/dad

• The only relationship that has ended is in fact your couple relationship, not your parental relationship

• It can be traumatic for everyone, including children, going through separation even if it is amicable, but there is life afterwards and a future

• Ask yourself, “what would I like my child to remember about this in 10-15 years’ time?”

• As parents we are responsible for our children, we can only control our ‘end’ of the conversation or behaviour shown to our children (and indeed our ex), so make it count or as good as it can be.

• Your child is watching and learning from you, teach them by your behaviour how to respect others even if you don’t get on, it’s a greatlife lesson.

• Try to put yourself in your child’s shoes. How does it look from where they’re standing?

• Remember they love you both. Try to let them.

• Letting your child have a worry-free time with their mum or dad will help them to grow up with hopefully fewer mental or emotional health issues

Be the best parent you can be whilst they are with you. Get support from friends, family and professionals who specialise in separation and divorce when things get tough. Set rules with consequences and boundaries for emotional stability and look after yourself.

No matter how angry or upset you are with your ex, when your child has had a great time with them, take a deep breath and be delighted, for you have before you a HAPPY child.

Mediation & Collaborative Law

Following a relationship breakdown many couples are resolving issues concerning their property and the arrangements for their children by engaging in mediation or the collaborative law process.  These options involve the couple meeting face to face and being assisted during the meetings by either a mediator or their collaboratively trained lawyer this way, agreements are often achieved without the expense and stress of court proceedings.  Everyone using mediation or the collaborative law process must be assessed to confirm their circumstances are suitable.

Unhappy married family couple getting divorced in asian attorney lawyers office, husband signing decree paper giving permission to marriage annulment dissolution, divorce settlement concept


To engage in the mediation process the couple usually meet with a mediator who remains independent and impartial. The mediator will help the couple to consider the issues which need to be resolved and assist with exchanging relevant information between the couple. The mediator can consider the possible outcomes which could be ordered by the court to assist the couple to reach an agreement.  Mediation works best if the couple also take separate independent legal advice during the process. If an agreement isn’t reached, it is possible to make an application to the court to resolve the issues between them.

If the couple are able to reach an agreement, the mediator will prepare a Memorandum of Understanding which is a summary of the couple’s agreement. This document may then be presented to the couple’s independent legal advisors who will convert it into a legally binding document. 

Sometimes only one meeting with the mediator is required to achieve an agreement however, in most cases further meetings are needed.  Legal Aid may be available in some circumstances. 

Collaborative Law

With the collaborative law process, each person will instruct their own collaboratively trained lawyer to provide support and legal advice during a series of ‘four way’ meetings.  Generally, between 2 and 5 meetings will be required where the focus will be on working together to find solutions. 

At the outset the couple and their lawyers enter into a written agreement to confirm their commitment to resolve all issues within the collaborative law process. It is agreed that if the collaborative law process breaks down and court proceedings are commenced, the same lawyers would not be able to continue to act for the couple and different lawyers would need to be appointed. 

The couple remain in control of the collaborative law process, they decide which issues need to be resolved and when the meetings take place.  The couple agree that all issues will be discussed openly during the meetings. The two lawyers will provide advice during the ‘four way meetings’ and will collate and provide the relevant information.  Independent ‘neutral’ professionals can be invited to attend the meetings to advise the couple and present options for further consideration. Financial planners, accountants and family therapists often form part of the collaborative team.  The likelihood of reaching an agreement within the collaborative law process is very high and once this is achieved, a legally binding agreement can be prepared by the lawyers involved.

Whether an agreement is achieved through mediation or the collaborative law process, the couple themselves remain in the ‘driving seat’ and are directly involved in shaping the future arrangements for themselves and their families. When people are actively involved in the decision making process, the agreements reached stand a very good chance of being effective and long lasting.  Another bonus with both options is that the likelihood of the couple remaining on good terms is far greater, compared with couples who engage in court proceedings which are often stressful, expensive and can result in an unpalatable solution being imposed on the couple by a judge.

Why do I need a forensic accountant in my divorce when we have agreed not to go to court?

Many people find that the collaborative approach to divorce is a much healthier way of moving forward after a marriage breakdown than the adversarial, and often divisive, process of going to court.  However, there are still difficult decisions to make and a forensic accountant can provide some of the help you both need to reach find a workable solution.

Your collaborative lawyer may recommend that you involve a forensic accountant.  There is no prescribed ‘role’ for a forensic accountant in the collaborative process – our input is entirely tailored to your needs.

The first role is often as fact-finder, collating the appropriate financial information and explanations relating to business assets.  Both parties to the collaborative process sign up to full financial transparency, but the forensic accountant brings the skills and knowledge needed to scrutinise the data so it can be relied upon and used to generate creative solutions.

The second possible role of the forensic accountant is valuer.  We are often asked to value businesses or shareholdings, comment on the ‘liquidity’ in the business (i.e. what could be extracted to fund a settlement without harming the business) and the likely income that could be achieved from the business going forward.  This can be reported to you formally in a report, or informally in a round-table meeting.

The third role can be as educator.  If one party runs a company, the other often feels ‘in the dark’ about the business and its value.  By bringing that spouse up-to-speed on financial issues, it helps them to feel comfortable to reach decisions so the process can move forward. This can be achieved in a one-to-one meeting with the non-business-owning spouse to talk through the latest accounts and explain what they indicate in terms of liquidity and income.  This is a good chance for them to ask questions in a safe environment.

The fourth role of the forensic accountant can be as an impartial facilitator.  Once the value of the assets is established and the parties have some goals in mind, we can work together with your lawyers to identify appropriate options (e.g. share transfers, property divisions etc.), discuss and analyse the likely tax consequences.  A forensic accountant can act as the reality-check when brainstorming solutions.  This is also an opportunity for you both to raise questions and concerns.  Together with your lawyers we can help you find a resolution that best fits your family’s needs.

The Importance of Listening

One of the most common features of working with divorcing couples, is that of discussing, finding out and encouraging the importance of good listening.

Often, we hear people say that they are good listeners and friends and relatives who might be supporting you through this difficult process, perhaps will offer you their ear whenever you might need to offload or discuss issues that have arisen.

Conversations with your ex concerning the house, finance and most importantly the children are inevitable at some point.

These conversations arise at a time when emotionally, we are not best placed to hear what needs to be said.

Divorce can often result from a breakdown in communication that has been building for some time, coupled with other relationship difficulties.

Below are some tips to consider when communicating with your ex:


  • How do you know when someone is listening to you?
  • How do you listen?
  • What are the optimum conditions for you to listen fully?
  • If you are upset, frustrated, or angry, your listening skills will be impaired.
  • If you find yourself thinking about something else or how you might respond whilst others are still talking, you have stopped listening fully
  • Try to keep your focus on what is being said
  • Ensure that the time is convenient for you both to talk. If one of you needs to get away then your focus will not be on the present situation.

Once the other person has stopped talking.


  • To make sure you have fully understood, e.g. “Ok so what I heard you say was……………”
  • It is not unusual to miss important points during ‘emotional’ conversations, especially with your ex.
  • Keep checking until you fully understand what has been said.     


  • Take a moment to reflect on what’s been said.
  • You might need more time, try not to feel pressured into making your reply immediately.
  • Rearrange another time, convenient to you both to continue the conversation if you need more time.

Once you have considered your response


Try to

  • Use ‘I’ Statements, e.g. “I think, I feel”
  • Consider your ex’s position, put yourself in their shoes.
  • Keep calm-it’s easy for things to escalate.
  • Consider your children’s needs.
  • Seek help if you are struggling. Consider a relationship therapist or mediator.
  • Check that your ex has understood, “can you please repeat back what you’ve heard?”

Some final points to consider:

What you’re going through is tough. You will at times feel very emotional and having a rational, calm conversation with your ex is probably the last thing you want to do.

Remember, no one can be made to do anything that they don’t want to, try to offer suggestions rather than make demands.

Control ‘your end’ of the conversation (AND the behaviour that goes with it) and be the best listener you can be, for the sake of your children.


An Advisers View

I have advised many clients going through a divorce, on occasion following the divorce I have continued to advise both husband and wife separately.  Whilst the outcomes of the divorce from a financial view have been varied and specific to each clients circumstances it has been the process that has had the biggest impact from an emotional and personal wellbeing perspective.  I am not really there to provide support at this level but one cannot help but be drawn in and sympathetic to the feelings of longstanding clients.

The clients that have fared better from an emotional standpoint have been those that have divorced through a collaborative process.  Through this route all the discussions have been carried out face to face with both individuals having the support of their legal advisers within the 4-way meetings.  There have been difficult discussions but they have never been in doubt as to what their aims were and where there was conflict it was in the open with a full and frank discussion.  Whilst this has an emotional price, once the agreement was reached they could move on with a continued respect for each other.

Whilst some who have divorced through the ‘traditional’ adversarial approach have come though relatively unscathed others have not fared as well.  The uncertainty as to what their former spouse is thinking or what they are going to ask for next weighs heavy on them.  The financial outcomes may be similar in the end but the respect has gone and there is very little chance of any ongoing civility in communications.  This causes further problems where children are adversely effected.

Any couple who have gone through a divorce will say it is not easy but there are definitely some ways that are easier than others in terms of the emotional price paid.  Collaborative may not be suitable for all but it is certainly worth a look.