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How no clean break order tainted a lottery win

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For most people, winning the Lottery is a dream. It becomes a reality for a precious few. One of those was Nigel Page who picked up £56 million on the Euromillions draw earlier this year. Can you imagine how much something like that would change your life?

However, the dream was tainted when his ex-wife, who left him ten years ago for another man, tried to claim as much as £8 million of his win for herself. It was reported last week that he reached an out-of-court settlement for £2 million after an initial offer of £1 million was rejected by ex-wife Wendy.

Now this is incredibly harsh – but it is also completely legal if a divorced couple do not have a Clean Break Order drawing a line under the finances. Even then, a financial agreement over the children reached years before, based on the ex having a certain level of income or savings, can – and in many instances should – be reviewed if that suddenly changes, due to an inheritance, Lottery win or they make it as a Premiership footballer.

I wrote an article for my local paper on this case back in February. It was prompted after reading about the couple (Mr Page and partner Justine) who had won £56 million and were both “divorcees”, living together for the last eight years. At the time I said that I hoped that both of them, for their sakes, had obtained a Clean Break Order in their respective divorce proceedings. If only I had such powers of prediction for the Lottery numbers myself!

A Clean Break Order will dismiss all financial claims that the parties to a marriage may bring against one another as a result of their marriage. A Decree Absolute, which dissolves marriage, does not dismiss the financial claims which arise under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. This means that, in the future, the ex-spouse could at any time issue a financial claim for a share of any money that has been inherited, won or earned. In addition, any asset or property owned by an ex-spouse could be included in that claim. This also covers jointly owned property purchased with a new partner.

I generally advise clients to consider obtaining a Clean Break Order even when there are limited – or in some cases no – assets from their marriage, as none of us can accurately predict what may happen in the future. The only other way to dismiss financial claims is to remarry. This, in effect, terminates any rights to financial relief that the party who remarries had in respect of their previous marriage. As in this case though, people must be aware that the unmarried ex-spouse can still bring a claim for financial relief against the ex-spouse who has remarried.

Taking proper legal advice on the financial implications of divorce is essential. It could prove to be money well spent and save a person significantly more further down the line.

Liz Davies
Divorce and family lawyer in Shropshire

Comments

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Thanks Liz, for this interesting note on tyhe Lottery Winner who had top pay up when his ex-wife emerged from the woodwork.  In Scotland that kind of thing could not happen.  Once the divorce is grsnted neither party can come back to the Court and ask for more capital unless there has been a failure to disclose assets before the decree.  In the case of a post-divorce Lottery win there is absolutely no chance that an ex-spouse could ask for a slice of that good fortune ...

By John Fotheringham on Thursday December 16, 2010

My husband and I are seperated and are going to get a divorced.  He has recently obtained profit sharing with him company which equates to £2000 am I legally entitled to a proportion of this money? as I am not yet divorced and he left us. He has a very well paid job and he pays me maintenance at the moment but I feel I should benefit from this company bonus etc?  ...

By jane kenyon on Wednesday December 29, 2010

John: many thanks for your input on another of the very important differences between English (and Welsh) law and that of Scotland. Most people have no idea there is any difference at all!...

By Andrew Woolley on Thursday January 6, 2011

Jane:I’m glad you asked this. All funds from all sources are taken into account although the answer to any one query depends upon ALL the facts. A bonus which is likely to be regular is normally regarded as income to be divided up, though. Hopefully you can arrange an agreement about this without going to Court….

By Andrew Woolley on Thursday January 6, 2011

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