Many people take the legal step of drawing up a prenuptial agreement before they get married, in case of divorce. While many will see this as a very pessimistic step to take, others will look at it the same way as they would a will made at a young age or an insurance policy; it covers something you hope won’t happen, just in case it does.
However, when people do get divorced, assuming there is no prenup, it can be very easy to think that ending your marriage means there are no further legal ties to be concerned with, except any agreements confirmed at the time concerning the distribution of money and assets (such as a house) and custody of children.
This is especially so in an age of fast-track ‘no fault’ divorce. But while divorce solicitors in Surrey can help get the process done faster if both parties agree, it is important not to be complacent about future financial issues. After all, even if things are amicable at the time of a split, there is no guarantee they will say like that.
Complacency can produce some dangerous assumptions, which an article in This is Money has highlighted. Interviewing various legal experts, it noted that unless certain legal provisions are put in place to specify and limit any further legal and financial responsibilities, people may find their ex-partners returning with legal claims years down the line.
Kate Booth, head of family and matrimonial at Brindley Twist Tafft & James, warned: “When you get divorced, all that does is end the marriage between you. It does not end your financial links.”
She said that without a ‘consent order’ to restrict future claims, people could find there are several ways ex-spouses could make claims on their money and assets.
In the event of someone making a large sum of money, profiting heavily from a house sale or even winning the lottery, “as the law stands your ex-wife or husband has every right legally to make a claim against you,” she revealed.
Consent orders are simple to get, she advised. People simply need to have one drawn up and have it submitted to a judge, who will decide if it is reasonable and, if so, approve it. In most cases, this does not even need a trip to court.
Stephanie Kyriacou, a family associate at law firm Shakespeare Martineau, told the paper there are cases in law where swift, DIY divorces have left people vulnerable to later claims.
She remarked: ‘The landmark case of Wyatt v Vince, where the multimillionaire windfarm tycoon’s ex-wife made a successful financial claim 20 years after the divorce, should act as a cautionary tale.”
According to the most recent government figures, relating to 2021, the actual number of divorces within ten years of the wedding day has declined compared with 2011, reversing a long-term trend.
In 1965, one in ten couples who married that year were divorced within a decade. This rose to one in four by 2011, but dropped back to one in five by 2021.