One of the most important parts of any divorce is resolving the matrimonial finances. The court will usually hope to achieve a clean break between the couple, which means that neither party can make any further financial claims against the other in regards to the marriage, howsoever arising once decree absolute has been pronounced. This is recorded on paperwork and must be endorsed by the court for it to be legally binding.
This requirement is even more significant in light of the recent divorce case which hit the headlines when an ex wife was allowed to bring a claim for financial support, 23 years after the parties divorced. In this case the parties divorced when they were 22 years old after two years of marriage and neither party had any assets. The husband then founded the green energy company Ecotricity, and made a fortune, estimated to be in the region of £57 million.
This ruling has sent shivers up the spines of many divorcees and has sparked an outraged response from lawyers, some of whom fear the courts will be clogged with cases of former spouses demanding money even when there is little merit to their claims.
Although it seems illogical, the wife was able to bring this claim as neither of the parties were able to produce any formal court document concluding and dismissing the financial relief claims by way of a “clean break”.
If such a document does not exist, then of course the former spouse bringing the claim must convince the judge that such an order is “reasonable and fair” taking into account all the factors the court must consider before making an order. This will of course be considered in light of, particularly the case in the headlines, the short duration of the marriage, the long delay and whether her financial needs were generated by her relationship with her former spouse.
This case highlights the problem with not arriving at a financial settlement – even when there were no assets – leaving open the possibility for one or other spouse to make a claim in the future. It must also be noted that there is no maximum period or “time bar” after which claims cannot be brought before a court. Consequently, careful consideration must be given when the splitting couples are young and have potentially lucrative careers ahead of them.
Therefore, if you are separating from your partner, do not hesitate to contact the Head of our Matrimonial Finance Team, Gurjit Chahal who will deal with your divorce in the best way possible to ensure all paperwork is properly completed to allow you to move on with your life, no matter what the circumstances are at the time of the divorce.
Family Law Specialist