I am really pleased to introduce Gemma Hope, Solicitor, Collaborative Lawyer and Mediator from Family Law Partners who is writing this blog with me on the Form E. We shall be discussing what it is, why it is important and sharing some tips on how to make it a manageable task.
Why can Form E feel like such a struggle?
In my role as a financial coach I am increasingly working with people who are feeling stuck and overwhelmed by completing the Form E.
A recent client said she found it “antiquated and not user friendly for the lay person”.
People I work with are worried about filling it out perfectly, worried about not leaving any gaps, they fear being judged by their lawyer.
Do any of these comments speak to you?
Some clients feel shame and embarrassed at not being able to understand the form and when they begin working on it their minds go blank, they feel anxious and can’t think.
“It was daunting and scary”
Filling in the Form E is difficult for some as they may feel that their private world is becoming more public. Some separating couples may not have talked about money matters before with each other which can result in them feeling very uncomfortable now at the end of the relationship having to go through everything.
Form E is important in divorce
Gemma, what exactly is the Form E and why is it important?
The Form E is a standard court form that sets out all the information that needs to be provided in order for informed decisions to be made with regards to how financial matters should be dealt with when a marriage comes to an end.
In order to work out an appropriate and fair financial outcome there needs to be a clear picture of the financial position.
Both spouses have an absolute duty to disclose fully their respective financial positions (and any significant changes that may occur pending a final settlement being reached) so that proper financial arrangements can be made.
Even when separating couples are working out a financial settlement without going through the court process (for example by using mediation, the collaborative process, solicitor led negotiation or arbitration) there is still this duty for full financial disclosure and the Form E is often used as the means of providing that to ensure that everything is covered, so that ultimately a suitable outcome can be reached which stands everyone in good stead for the future.
The Form E is not particularly user friendly though and at a time when emotions can be high it can be really difficult to find the headspace to deal with form filling and documentation gathering.
Here are some of the top tips Kim and I think can help make completing the Form E more manageable:
5 steps to make Form E easier
1) Breakdown the task into manageable sections
The Form E itself is set out in different sections. Some parts of the Form E may not be relevant in your circumstances, in which case you can leave those blank.
Section 1 is where you set out personal information and key dates, such as the names and dates of birth of you and any children and your address.
Section 2 is where you set out details of your financial situation including any interests in property, pensions, businesses and your income. If you don’t have your pension information easily to hand you can obtain this using Form P and Form BR19 and Form BR20.
Section 3 is where you set out your financial needs, if you find this section difficult to complete then check out our previous blog post: Creating a budget for life after separation or divorce.
Section 4 is where you can set out any narrative that is relevant to financial circumstances such as whether there have been any significant changes to income or assets or likely to be any in the last/next 12 months as well as any particular contributions or factors that need to be taken into account.
Section 5 is where you set out what outcome you are looking for, you may not be able to complete this section until you have reviewed your spouse’s Form E in which case you can just complete this section to say the outcome is to be determined following review of your spouse’s Form E.
There is a handy checklist list at the end of the Form E setting out the documents you need to attach in support.
2) Set aside times in your diary aside to complete the Form E
You don’t necessarily have to find the time to sit down and do it all in one go. Set aside some time slots in your diary to complete certain sections of the Form E.
Be aware of any deadlines there may be for having the Form E finalised. This for instance could be a date that has been agreed between solicitors for the exchange of the Form E, a certain date prior to a mediation session or a court deadline.
Don’t leave completing the Form E until the last minute. Give yourself with plenty of time, as completing the Form E and gathering together the supporting documents often takes longer than you expect.
3) Use the Advice Now guidance to help you out
The Advice Now website is provided by Law for Life, a charity dedicated to ensuring that people have the knowledge, confidence and skills needed to secure access to justice.
There is a short film on the Advice Now website that provides a step-by-step guide to how you fill out the Form E. You can watch as a Form E is completed, with some explanations on what details you put where, and what all the gobbledygook actually means.
4) Understand your attitudes towards money by talking to a financial coach
- What is your earliest memory of money?
- What did you learn about money from your parents or guardians?
- How do you talk or think about money?
If you would like to explore your money memories and how your relationship with money may be impacting on you right now then learn about financial coaching here.
5) Ask for help
Do ask, if you don’t know where to start or really don’t understand, just call Gemma or myself. It is really OK to ask for help. As they say there really is no such thing as a stupid question.
Something you might spend hours stuck on is probably something one of us will know the answer to, having helped many people complete the form over the years there isn’t much we haven’t seen or been asked before.
You may also be interested in:
- Creating a budget for life after separation or divorce: step by step guide
- Free Spending Plan worksheet
- Pensions, are you losing out? – Pension and divorce
- How Financial Coaching can support you before, during or after divorce
- Gemma Hope at Family Law Partners
If you feel you might need support with the emotional challenges around Form E and finances in divorce, don’t hesitate to reach out to Kim Crewe:
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Call: 07711 102461