What is a Form E?
Form E is a statement containing the financial details of a couple during a divorce. In a divorce case, a Form E is a standard form of Statement which both parties will complete with a view to providing each other with a complete picture of their financial position. While there are other ways of exchanging financial information, the Form E is very thorough, and certainly usually my preferred way to deal with disclosure.
What is the purpose of a Form E?
It is most commonly used in the following scenarios:
- In advance of the First Appointment in financial remedy court proceedings. The First Appointment is the first court hearing which usually takes place around 3 months after proceedings are issued.
- When the parties wish to exchange financial disclosure through their solicitors with a view to negotiating a financial settlement.
- When the parties are in mediation with a view to agreeing a financial settlement
Form E and Financial Disclosure:
Sometimes it is the case that parties to a divorce know exactly what they want with both their own finances and their spouses. Sometimes, parties think they know but are surprised when financial information is exchanged. And sometimes, perhaps more often than you might think, one party to the marriage took care of all the finances and the other has little knowledge to work with.
In all of these scenarios, my advice would be to have a full and frank exchange of financial information so that we can be as sure as possible that we have a full picture. You don’t know if you are scenario one or two until there has been an exchange. Yes, it is a daunting task, but it is important for several reasons:-
- In order us for to achieve the best outcome for our clients, we need to have all of the information.
- With all the information, our clients can make informed decisions in their case and be comfortable with the choices they make.
- So that the agreement or court order made at the end of a case is really final (or as final as can be). This means our clients can move on with their lives, not wondering whether they really did the right thing, and without the possibility of the agreement/Order being re-opened later when it turns out that we did not have all of the facts.
Is Form E compulsory in divorce?
Both parties to the divorce will need to complete the Form E so that there can be a global understanding as to the asset and income position. Form E is likely to be required in the following scenarios:
- The Form E is the first step when a party makes an Application to the Court for financial orders and it is mandatory at that stage.
- Sometimes the Form E is used by parties on a voluntary basis so that they can have the benefit of full and frank disclosure prior to entering into negotiations. Often, provided the parties are not unlikely to be able to agree for a particular reason, this can be an excellent way of progressing towards settlement. However, if negotiations falter and court proceedings are required, a lot of the work has already been done when it comes to the mandatory exchange of Forms E, and it is just a question of updating it.
- Sometimes the Form E is used as a way of giving disclosure within the mediation process.
What is included within a Form E?
Form E is a comprehensive document that requires the parties to set out their financial circumstances, with supporting documents.
Details of the following are required to complete Form E:
- Date of marriage
- Children of the family
- Financial resources – details of all properties, bank accounts, investments, liabilities, business assets, income etc.
- Capital and income needs
- An indication of the section 25 factors relevant to the case such as contributions and conduct
- If known, the financial orders sought.
When completing Form E, the parties have an obligation to the court to give full, frank and clear disclosure.
How to Complete a Form E
The Form E is a searching document which is designed to prompt the parties to think about every aspect of their finances. It asks about assets of all different types and liabilities but it also examines what the parties intend to do in the future, financially, and what resources – of income and capital – they will need to try to achieve that. It is an important document because it is also the first chance (in proceedings, anyway), to make tactical arguments, for example, if you intend to raise arguments about the conduct of the other party.
We are here to guide our clients when completing the Form E, and usually my advice would be “if in doubt, put it in your draft and I can always take it out”. In my experience, 9 times out of 10, when I then review the Form E, it needed to be there.
The Form also requires parties to provide documentary evidence to support everything they say, including bank statements, proof of income, proof of other assets and their value and valuations for properties. Of course, what documentation will need to be included will depend upon what you are disclosing, so this will vary from case to case.
Where can a Form E be obtained?
If you have solicitors or a mediator involved, they will be able to send it to you.
Otherwise, it is available from the Gov.uk website here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/form-e-financial-statement-for-a-financial-order-matrimonial-causes-act-1973-civil-partnership-act-2004-for-financial-relief-after-an-overseas
What happens after the Form E is exchanged?
After the form E is exchanged, hearings are held in which both parties attempt to reach an agreement. If agreements aren’t reached, the dispute will be listed for a final hearing before the judge where a decision will be made.