Leading Family Law Divorce Specialists, Major Family Law state in the North East Times there is a common misconception that once you are divorced, that draws a line under everything, legally speaking. Many people believe that once their divorce has been finalised, that also finalises any outstanding financial issues and prevents either party from making any future claims against the other.
In reality, the decree absolute serves only to legally end the marriage; it does not, in itself, resolve or conclude any issues or claims in relation to the parties’ respective financial circumstances arising out of the marriage.
A case of extreme circumstances has recently demonstrated this point:
The parties to the case had married in 1981 and separated in 1984. They had one child, and had also treated the wife’s child from an earlier relationship as a child of the family. During the relationship the parties “chose the New Age or Traveller creed and lifestyle” and had no assets of significance.
In the early 1990s there were divorce proceedings. The wife entered into a new relationship in 1995 and had two further children by her new partner. In 1995 the husband began a wind power business which became very successful and grew into a company worth “many millions”. The husband remarried in 2006 and had a son with his new wife.
It was not until May 2011 that the wife made a claim for financial remedies from the husband and also looked to the Court to award her a costs allowance of £125,000 to finance her claim.
The husband sought the strike out of the wife’s application. Initially, his application failed, but he appealed to the Court of Appeal, who supported his application. Ultimately, the matter will go to the Supreme Court at the end of this year for a final determination as to whether the wife is entitled to make a claim on the husband’s assets at this stage.
The Court of Appeal took the view that, although there was no limitation period in respect of applications for financial remedies following divorce, the court should not allow either party to a former marriage to be harassed by claims for financial relief which are both issued many years after the divorce and have no real prospect of success.
In the meantime, the case so far has been running for more than 3 years, with the associated costs of pursuing it through the appellate courts. Whatever the ultimate decision, those costs will not be recovered. Had the parties obtained a Consent Order as part of the divorce proceedings ending all financial claims against the other, this whole situation would have been avoided.
Even where there are no real assets from the marriage to be shared, parties who are divorcing should have a formal order endorsed by the Court acknowledging that and severing all financial ties permanently. Failing to do so, can leave those parties open to the risk of financial claims long after each has moved on with their lives.
If you believe you may be in a similar position, you should seek early clarification from a family law specialist.
“Joanne Major is the Principal at Major Family Law, the Divorce and Family Law Specialists, 12 West Road, Ponteland, Newcastle Upon Tyne. T: 01661 82 45 82 www.majorfamilylaw.co.uk. Twitter: @majorfamilylaw”