You may be unaware that obtaining a divorce does not automatically cut the financial ties between you and your ex spouse and you will still remain financially linked together. Any agreement or financial settlement you reach to resolve the finances aspects of your divorce should be recorded in a document called a ‘Consent Order’. The consent order may include a ‘Clean Break’ provision dismissing all future financial claims that either you or your ex-spouse may bring against each other.
The recent Supreme Court decision in the case of Wyatt v Vince highlights the importance of reaching an agreement on the finances following separation and obtaining a legally binding order. In this particular case the husband, a one time New Age traveller became a hugely successful multi-millionaire businessman after he and his ex wife has divorced. The Supreme Court unanimously allowed the wife’s appeal to lodge a financial remedy claim against her ex-husband despite having been divorced for over 20 years. The Judges indicated that the wife may face ‘formidable difficulties’ in securing a financial order given the time that has elapsed since the divorce however, her greater contribution to the upbringing of the children may justify a ‘modest award’ being made. Furthermore, as there is no time limit under family law to commence a financial claim the High Court will now consider Ms Wyatt’s financial remedy claim.
If a financial agreement is not recorded in a consent order with a clean break provision, this leaves the door open for either party to make a claim against the other at any point in the future. Without a clean break order dismissing any future claims, a claim can be made for a share of your increased wealth in the event of a lottery win, inheritance, success in business or increase in income. You may recall the 2010 story of Euro millions Lottery winner Nigel Page, whose ex-wife sought to make a financial claim against him 10 years after separation. Following their divorce they did not obtain a clean break order resulting in Mr Page having to make an out of court settlement of £2m to his ex-wife.
It should be noted that a clean break may not be suitable for everyone and may not be approved by the Court where there are young children of the family or where one party earns significantly more than the other requiring spousal maintenance to be paid. However, in such cases there may be a deferred clean break once certain conditions have been met.
It is vitally important to deal with a financial settlement at the time of your divorce and where appropriate to obtain a clean break order to protect yourself moving forward into the future. Once an agreement has been reached on the finances we can prepare a consent order setting out the terms of your agreement. The consent order will only be legally binding and enforceable once it has been approved by the Court.
Please contact us for further advice and information on a clean break order.