Imagine winning millions on the lottery. Great! Now imagine sharing some of your winnings with your ex-spouse. Not so great! This is a real risk for divorcing couples if they fail to finalise financial matters at the time of separation.
The new divorce laws, which came into effect in April 2022, offers an online portal that simplifies the process of formally ending your marriage. But this is only half the story. Many people don’t realise that the Final Order of Divorce (previously known as Decree Absolute) does not end financial ties between separating spouses. In fact, this can only be achieved by obtaining a clean Break Order, also known as a Final Financial Order.
The breakdown of a marriage can be an incredibly emotional and stressful time. Understandably, you may want to wait for the dust to settle, and wounds to heal before having difficult conversations about how to resolve finances. You may also be more concerned with dealing with the immediate ramifications, such as living arrangements, payment of bills and child arrangements. However, the reality is: the more time that passes, the harder it can be to solve financial matters, as valuations of key assets, such as property and pensions, change.
You and your spouse may be able to reach a quick and amicable agreement as to the division of your assets. But your agreement won’t be legally binding unless it’s embodied in a court order. And given that things can change and relationships can deteriorate – for instance if a new partner comes into the equation – it is possible that your spouse could fail to honour the agreement you have reached.
Even if you and your spouse don’t have any assets to be divided on separation until you obtain a Clean Break Order, all financial claims will remain open. Which takes us back to the original lottery question. Imagine winning the lottery and suddenly getting a claim from your ex-spouse!
The court must consider the financial circumstances at the time of the application, which may be significantly different to the position on separation. It therefore follows that if your financial situation has improved, perhaps through inheritance, a lottery win, wise investments, you may be paying out a lot more than you anticipated.
Whatever your circumstances, whether you are separating, divorcing, or already divorced, whether you have assets or not, we would recommend you seek legal advice to explore your position. It could save you money in the long run.
For more information, contact Rachel Davies on 01756 692877 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
20 July 2023
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