LEGAL EAGLE: Divorce - it ain’t over ‘til it’s over

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I am often asked the question “When I am finally divorced, my money’s safe and my ex can’t claim anything from me, right?”

This isn’t right and ex-spouses can make claims for maintenance, pensions or even a share of the house, even after your Decree Absolute is through.

This was made very clear in a recent widely-reported case of Ms Wyatt and Mr Vince, where the couple had been divorced for many years and had no contact with each other.

The facts of the case are a little unusual as Mr Vince, who had been a new age traveller, became a multi-millionaire because he had successfully started and grown his green energy company, Ecotricity, and now had assets worth £107 million.

The Court heard that he had the money to pay any award the Judge made in favour of his ex-wife, but that he didn’t agree to make any payment to her because they had been divorced for so long and she had nothing to do with the building up of his business.

Ms Wyatt said that she had brought up their son all on her own and that it would be fair to receive something.

The case hasn’t been fully decided yet, but the Judges in the Supreme Court, having heard part of the case, decided they would allow the Ms Wyatt’s claim to continue.

Whether you think this is fair or not, the lesson in this case is clear – when you separate or divorce, you should resolve all outstanding financial issues between the two of you and, even if at the time you don’t think you have anything to resolve, like Mr Vince and Ms Wyatt probably believed at the time of their divorce, you could have in the future.

This case also shows that there is no time limit on an ex-spouse making a financial claim.

You should therefore always consider taking legal advice about getting a “clean break” order which would effectively draw a line at the end of your marriage and prevent any future claims against you- even if you won the lottery.

Because even if your ex-partner was unsuccessful in a claim you would still have the nuisance, stress and expense of an unwelcome court case, possibly years after you though that everything had been sorted.

• Jo Scott is a solicitor in David Gray Solicitors’ award–winning family team (Northern Law Awards 2015) rated as Top Tier in The Legal 500 and Chambers national directories.

Jo is based in our South Shields office. She has a particular interest and specialism in finance cases in divorce and is a collaborative lawyer and family mediator.

You can contact Jo for a no obligation chat via our website where you can Chat Live 24/7

David Gray Solicitors will be holding free family law clinics in South Shields beginning next month.

Watch out for details here in the Shields Gazette.

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