Guide to Reaching a Financial Settlement


At Harbour Family Law, we are committed to helping people deal with their separation in the most dignified and respectful way possible. We strongly believe that amicable settlements, which seek to preserve relationships and protect the family, are the best kind of outcome, and this is what we strive for where possible.

We also recognize that separation is a time of great uncertainty, and that no two cases are the same. This is why we like to help our clients keep as much control over their future as possible. We will always help clients reach agreement out of court where we can.

The majority of our cases settle out of court, meaning that it ends up being cheaper and less stressful for our clients. There are several approaches that you can take to negotiating a settlement, which are described below. Our solicitors can discuss all the options with you to find the right fit for your case.

We will offer you an initial consultation with up to an hour and a half to talk about your goals and priorities. We’ll give you advice on your situation and work out a plan that fits your needs, as well as providing an estimate of the costs. You can book an initial consultation here.

Understandably, separation can be a stressful and confusing time, so it’s important to feel comfortable and informed about the actions you might take. Before you begin the process of seeking a financial settlement, here are some questions you may want answers to.

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What is Financial Settlement?

A financial settlement is an arrangement between a couple that works to smooth over any finical issues that arise from their separation. The assets they own in their joint and sole names will be considered and, where appropriate, valued so that negotiations can take place. A financial settlement should be fair in distributing assets between the parties to achieve a final and binding arrangement over which assets they are each entitled to, avoiding future financial conflict.

A good settlement may take some time to achieve but will ultimately have both parties’ interests considered and will be personalised to each unique situation.

Assets to consider when drawing up a financial settlement may include money, joint accounts and savings, financial responsibilities for children, businesses, pensions, incomes, land and family homes, and other property such as valuable furnishings and cars.


Clean Break Financial Settlements

A clean break financial settlement is an arrangement that leaves a couple financially independent of each other after their divorce, with no ongoing maintenance payments between them. Having this kind of settlement means that your ex-partner can’t make any financial claims against you after your separation. The pros and cons of a clean break settlement can be talked over in your consultations with us.


How Long will Financial Settlement Take?

The process of reaching a financial settlement can be done within the same timescale of the divorce process and can sometimes take as little as six months. However, there is no set timeframe and each case is different in terms of the assets involved and its complexity.


What Fees will there be?

The overall cost of reaching a financial settlement will depend on the circumstances of each individual case, including the value and range of assets, and the individuals’ personal circumstances. To learn more about the likely costs, you can book your initial meeting in which this can be openly discussed to help you become more informed on the process and fees involved.
In most cases, each person will pay for their own legal fees, but if you want to bring in a professional such as an actuary, you might choose to share the cost of this between you.


Can we Reach a Settlement Ourselves?

A couple talking in a cafe

Yes, if you live in England or Wales, you can reach an agreement without a solicitor if both of you are able to come to a fair, mutual agreement without coercion. However, this must be considered very carefully as your decision will be legally binding and can have a great effect on your personal finances.This isn’t the recommended route to take if your case is complex, such as if your assets are difficult to value or determine, you share a business, you have children or if the relationship is very long or contentious.

However the agreement is reached, we suggest you make sure your settlement is considered by a solicitor who can help you have it made final and binding in a consent order.

Some of the options we provide to resolve settlement dispute include:


Solicitor negotiations

This has traditionally been the most common way to resolve a case. We liaise with the other party, or their solicitor, to establish exactly what’s in the asset ‘pot’ to determine a sensible, fair settlement proposal which meets everyone’s needs. This process is flexible, cost-effective and tailored to your individual circumstances. We discuss what’s really important to you, so we’re always working with your personal priorities in mind.


Collaborative law

This is a specific type of solicitor negotiation carried out by lawyers trained in the collaborative process. Both parties will commit to doing their best to reach an agreement without going to court, and they have a series of meetings with the lawyers present for advice and support. They can also include any other experts they want in the meetings, such as a financial adviser or pensions expert who can give extra information.



Mediation is a common alternative to solicitor negotiations. You and your ex will have separate meetings with the mediator to discuss the process and whether it’s right for you. Once you’re both happy to go ahead, they will set up your first joint session so you can start working through your case. Mediation is entirely voluntary, meaning it only works if you both agree to go. It’s really important to have legal advice before you go to mediation, so you know what to expect and are able to negotiate confidently and fairly.


Direct discussions

There is nothing to stop you from speaking to your ex directly (or sending them an email if you prefer) about what sort of settlement or outcome you want. Even if you can’t agree on everything, if you start to limit how much you need your solicitor to do on your behalf you can end up saving money on legal fees. Most people find it useful to speak to their lawyer before they start having these discussions, and before they commit to a final agreement, to get a sense of what is realistic in their circumstances.


Private Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) and Arbitration

If you think you would benefit from having a bit more structure to your negotiations, but you don’t want to have the delays that can sometimes come with court proceedings, these can be useful options. Both parties select an expert (such as an experienced barrister) who will consider your case and help you reach a settlement. In a private FDR they will give you an indication of the sort of judgement they would expect if you were at court. If you choose an arbitrator, you agree to let them make a binding decision about your case if you’re not able to settle it yourselves.

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Court proceedings

If the other options above don’t lead you to an agreement or they aren’t right for your situation, you can make a court application. This is useful if, for example, one person is refusing to disclose assets or is looking for a completely unrealistic outcome. The court will set out deadlines for you both to disclose information about your finances and encourage you to negotiate. Ultimately, if you don’t agree on a settlement, there will be a final hearing where a judge will consider your case and make a judgement which will be binding on both of you.

It’s always a good thing to know your options to ensure you’re making decisions that work for you. This is a brief overview of the different ways people can reach a settlement, but we can help you personalise an approach that fits your needs. Our family solicitors are experienced in many different forms of negotiation, and we can tailor our methods for your benefit.

We are also able to refer you to any other experts who can support you through the process.
We pride ourselves on making our clients feel supported and empowered all the way through their case, so they can reach an outcome that’s right for them and their whole family. Learn more about what we can do for you with a consultation.

If you would like to arrange an initial consultation with a member of our specialist family law team, please do not hesitate to contact us on T: 0117 3751780 or E:


The news articles and blogs contained on this website do not constitute legal advice in relation to any particular situation. While Harbour Family Law aims to ensure that the information is correct (for England & Wales) at the date on which it is added to the website, the legal position can change frequently, and content will not always be updated following any relevant changes. You therefore acknowledge and agree that Harbour Family Law Ltd accept no liability whatsoever in contract, tort or otherwise for any loss of damage caused by or arising directly or indirectly in connection with any use or reliance on the contents of our website to the extent that such liability cannot be excluded by law.