A new rule came into effect on 1 August 2012 for the divorce process. In divorce cases with a financial element, whether it is a claim for a capital sum or sale of the matrimonial property, both parties must complete a Form 13A.
This form must be completed by the party raising the action before the action is raised in Court. The form asks for details of matrimonial property and debts as at the relevant date.
What is matrimonial property and debts?
- Matrimonial property is property owned by one party or in joint names which was acquired during the marriage. It excludes items or money received by inheritance or gifted.
- Matrimonial debts are debts in either one party's name or in joint names which were accumulated during the marriage.
What is the relevant date?
The identification and valuation of matrimonial property and debts is governed by the relevant date. The relevant date is either the date of separation or, if parties are still residing together, the date of service of the court papers upon the Defender. The form asks for matrimonial property and debts to be detailed as at the relevant date. It also asks for the form to be completed before the action is raised at Court. How can there then be a relevant date if the parties are separated but still living together?
It is unclear yet whether the form will be served upon the Defender at the same time as the Initial Writ. If so then the Defender will have to act quickly to deal with financial matters. The Defender may be required to lodge this new form with the Court when they lodge Defences.
The advantage of this new procedure is that it should promote transparency. Actions will no longer be able to be raised on a whim or without proper details of the financial aspects of the claim. However there are also pitfalls.
The form does not state the level of information to be included. A party in a divorce action may not be fully aware of the extent of the matrimonial property and debts. This eventuality is covered by the form as it states that the information contained within it "is correct to the best of my knowledge and belief". It is yet to be seen what the repercussions would be for a false or incomplete declaration.
For more information contact our family law team.