The team at Glynis Wright & Co often see clients who have been separated from their husband or wife for some time but for various reasons either haven’t taken legal advice or reached decisions about putting their finances in order. This can be risky.
Separation and divorce are emotionally draining and stressful for all concerned. Telling someone that you believe your relationship is at an end is very hard and many people understandably feel that discussing financial and legal issues at that point is a step too far.
Not taking the opportunity to sort out finances at the time of separation can be very costly and may catch out those who don’t take advice at an early stage.
Most people don’t realise that if they separate but don’t divorce their estranged spouse still has legitimate claims on their estate in the event of their death.
Similarly, if there is a divorce but no financial settlement then at any time an ex-spouse who has not subsequently re-married can make a claim for financial provision. This can be many years later when the financial circumstances of both parties can be very different from those which existed at the time of their separation.
This situation was well illustrated a couple of years ago in the case of Wyatt and Vince where, nearly 20 years after Decree Absolute was granted to a couple who had very few financial assets, the former wife of a man, who was by then a multi-millionaire, brought a claim for a share of his fortune. She hadn’t re-married and had little money whereas he had a new wife and had worked hard to build his fortune through a business he set up years after the divorce.
Whilst ultimately the parties were able to agree a settlement of the case (Mr Vince paid a lump sum to his ex-wife, Ms Wyatt) this was not before both parties had incurred substantial legal bills taking the case to the Supreme Court which ruled that there are no strict limitation periods on bringing a claim for financial relief.
A similar scenario could occur if one party inherited money and assets or won a substantial sum in a lottery or Premium Bond draw post-separation.
Even if the delay before the Court considers finances on divorce is not as long as in the Wyatt case, it can feel very unfair as the starting point is the assets of the parties as they are then, not as they were at the time of the split. Even more so if one party has, in the meantime, been a spendthrift whilst the other has been saving and working hard to build up capital.
For these and other reasons seeking expert and early advice is vital. Contact the award-winning team at Glynis Wright & Co for more help and information.