Importance Of A Clean Break Order For Divorcing Clients

Importance Of A Clean Break Order For Divorcing Clients

To some clients, the thought that their soon to be ex-spouse may have a claim over any future wealth may seem bizarre. 

Why should a person whom you have ended your relationship with have an entitlement over any part of your finances, possibly years down the line? As any family lawyer will know, ‘til death do us part’ is very true when it comes to financial obligations to a spouse, regardless if there is a Decree Absolute in place; that is unless a consent order, also known as a clean break order, is also in place.

The recent case of Blake Fielder-Civil, the ex-husband to singer Amy Winehouse, reinforces the importance of clean break orders, not just to an ex-spouse but also the remaining family. Almost 8 years after the death of Winehouse, her ex-husband of two years is launching a legal battle to claim £1 million, either in a lump sum or monthly allowance, from the singer’s estate, previously estimated to be worth £2.94 million. On their divorce in 2009, Fielder-Civil had received a £250,000 pay-out from Winehouse but crucially this was not recorded as a ‘clean break’, leaving the gates open to a claim on her estate. It will be up to Fielder-Civil’s legal team to convince the court that the pay-out was unfair and that his needs should be met with a further payment.

Many clients do not realise there may be a future claim on their estate, and may even consider that the extra expense of drawing up a consent order a waste, especially if they do not feel they have anything significant worth claiming or are on amicable terms with their ex. Over time wealth can accumulate and relations turn sour, especially when it comes to money. A clear example of this was the case of Wyatt v Vince, who launched a claim over accumulated wealth almost 20 years after their divorce.  Obtaining a consent order at the time of divorce could save a client, any future spouse or remaining family, a lot in a possible future claim – let’s call it an insurance policy.

It is important to emphasise to clients that it may not just be through accumulated wealth that a claim could be made; any inheritances, marrying a wealthy spouse or even a lottery win could have a previously amicable relationship with an ex-spouse turn sour and a claim over the wealth sought.

Clients should also be reminded, however, that they must be honest in their financial disclosure and any facts regarding finances, as otherwise the ‘insurance policy’ of a consent order may be overturned should there be any dishonesty or wrongful facts.

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