/ Divorce / Financial settlements

How the courts assess financial settlements

Everyone’s individual circumstances are different, so there is no way to predict for certain what a court will decide when it comes to a financial settlement. 

But there are factors that courts will commonly consider when coming to a fair decision.


This guide outlines general topics you should be thinking about if you want to get a divorce in Northern Ireland. But it is not legal advice. If you need legal advice, you should contact a specialist divorce solicitor for advice on your specific circumstances.

How the courts assess financial settlements

Once divorce proceedings are underway, one of the first questions asked often is “who gets the house?”

There is no one-size fits all approach to such a question – every family’s situation is different and family finances can be complex.

Courts face a difficult task when it comes to financial settlements and ancillary relief applications.

It’s impossible to set out what a court might order in any individual case, but we do know some of the key criteria that are taken into account:

  • income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources parties have or likely to have.
  • financial needs, obligations and responsibilities
  • standard of living enjoyed pre – breakdown
  • age of each party / duration of the marriage
  • any physical or mental disability
  • contributions by each party to the welfare of the family
  • conduct of the parties if inequitable to disregard (e.g. attempting to murder the other spouse or gambling the family’s assets).
  • value to each of the parties of any benefit which they will lose on dissolution or annulment of the marriage.

You can read more about these in Article 27 of the Matrimonial Causes Order.

At the forefront of the Court’s mind throughout the proceedings will be the welfare of any children of the marriage.

The Court will also try to ensure that everyones’ financial needs are met insofar as possible, and the default starting point is usually a 50/50 split in assets between spouses (though that split could change, depending on circumstances).

For example, in the case of a long marriage, the Court may feel it is fair to split all the couple’s assets.

But if the marriage was only short in duration, the Court may decide to only split assets that were acquired during the marriage itself.

The above article is part of our guide on how to get a divorce in Northern Ireland.

If you are thinking about getting a divorce, you should get in touch with a Northern Ireland specialist divorce solicitor who will be able to provide advice tailored to your own personal circumstances.

If you have any questions, you are very welcome to get in touch.

All the best,

The Team @ Lightlaw
Every effort is made to keep this guide up to date. Although it is not to be regarded as legal advice, we strive to make sure the information is helpful, accurate and practical. If you are a Northern Ireland divorce solicitor and have spotted an inaccuracy, you can submit a suggested change.
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