You have probably all heard or read about the recent divorce case that hit the headlines in early March, about an ex-wife being able to pursue her multi-millionaire ex-husband for financial support, some 27 years after separation, and 19 years after divorce. So what is all the fuss about?
When I first heard people ranting about the absurdity of it all, on the Jeremy Vine radio show, I nearly crashed car as my brain went into meltdown. I couldn’t understand what I was hearing. How could this be happening? The world had truly gone mad!
However, the old adages of not believing everything you read in the press or listening to half truths are correct. The media put a slant on the whole case in order to cause a controversy and make news.
So why am I writing this article about the case? Why am I adding fuel to the fire? Well, the answer is simple: if the parties to this divorce had concluded their divorce properly back in the 1990s, this story would not be in the news and the Supreme Court today.
Here are some of the facts of the case:-
• Whilst married the parties were New Age Travelers without any income or capital
• They had a son together (and a child from the wife’s previous relationship)
• They separated after just 2 years
• They divorced in 1992
• In the late 1990s they were in new relationships and had more children
• Husband founds the company Ecotricity and through his ingenuity and no doubt, hard work, becomes a multi-millionaire
• Wife claims that she struggled financially and did not receive any child support from Husband for their child
• Wife launches legal proceedings against ex-Husband in 2011 to secure some financial order from him
• In March 2015 the Supreme Court ruled that she had a valid claim because her contribution to raising the children was a legitimate claim and she had a right to have that claim heard despite the fact that her case is an uphill struggle given the passage of time and the short marriage
Again, this is a “big money” case and one may be excused for thinking, this is not going to happen to me. However, one may be surprised!
A financial order setting out all of the agreed financial terms is essential for any divorce. I had a case once where the husband and wife had very little when they divorced but the husband would not agree to sign a “clean break” financial order, basically saying that neither he nor his wife would make any further claims of a financial nature upon the other in life or in death. A few years later the wife received an inheritance of around £150,000.00 and the husband made a claim. Now, although this particular case settled out of Court, the “door” had been left wide open for either one of them to claim against the other in the future at any time. Had there been a financial order made at the time of the divorce the husband would have been barred from making any financial claims upon his ex-wife and vice versa. The importance of a final financial order cannot therefore be underestimated.
Legal Aid for family law financial cases has been abolished. A lot of people are getting divorced without the expert help of a solicitor. Consequently, they may not consider that there are all kinds of unexpected events which could have a financial impact on their lives in the future e.g. an inheritance or a lottery win. Claims are never extinguished until the Court makes a final order. Decree Absolute is not enough. Without an order, your ex can make a claim against your estate even after your days!
Whatever your views on this case are, please remember one thing, remember to lock all doors, including the stable door (if you have one!). They still haven’t found that horse that bolted, allegedly.