DIY divorcees urged to seek legal advice now to avoid ‘financial pain’ in the future

Divorced couples are leaving themselves exposed to the risk of future financial claims from their ex-spouses by not formally finalising settlements, a leading solicitor warns.

Those who apply for a divorce online under the new rules are among those most vulnerable if they go on to make their fortunes months, years or even decades after splitting with their spouses, said Kate Booth, Head of Family and Matrimonial at Brindley Twist Tafft & James. She added:

“When you get divorced, all that does is end the marriage between you. It does not end your financial links.

So, if later in life you go on to earn good money and build a really decent nest egg, or if you win the lottery or make a substantial sum on the sale of a house, as the law stands your ex-wife or husband has every right legally to make a claim against you.

This is possibly even more of a likelihood if illness or accident has left them out of pocket because they are unable to work and the court considers they need financial help.”

Kate advised couples with no joint assets to still formally cut all financial ties. She continued:

“We would still advise people to ensure they have a clean break from their ex at the point of divorce in the form of a Consent Order. You don’t need to go before the court for a Consent Order- you submit it for a judge to look at and the judge will decide whether it’s fair before it is approved.”

Kate warned couples who are avoiding solicitors’ fees to save money, for example in the case of amicable spouses who decide to organise their divorce and assets themselves, could end up paying more in the long run. She said:

“We’ve had clients approaching us for help saying their ex-spouses have come back to stake a claim in the former marital home. In the time they’ve been separated the client may have carried on paying the mortgage and the property has increased in value, so of course their ex may feel they have nothing to lose by making a claim.”

Kate also warned older couples planning to separate to think about the decades ahead. She said that she also had clients come to them who have separated from their partners and they agreed they would keep the house while their partner could keep their pension. She added:

“While this may suit at the time of separation the person who has agreed to keep the house must factor in that they will also need an income after they retire.

This won’t matter so much if the couple is in their 20s or 30s and they still have time ahead to build their pension, but if they’re older it’s something they need to think about – for example a woman in her 50s who received a lower income while her husband was the main breadwinner and she focused on raising the children may not have a pension of her own.

When deciding settlements courts won’t just look at the situation now, they look at the lifetime needs of the parties involved to check their needs can also be met when they are older.

This is something both parties need to think about.”

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