I'm not a great fan of the letters page in the newspapers, reading them only if I’ve exhausted everything else in the paper but this week one of my own clients sent me a cutting from a newspaper he’d been reading and asked: “Is this what we are trying to protect me against?” I thought it might therefore be worth picking up in this blog.
The question raised in the letter to the paper related to whether or not an ex from whom you split years ago may have a financial claim on your assets years later. And the simple answer is yes, unless you have a legally binding agreement in place. You don’t get such an agreement automatically when you divorce.
In a Consent Order the parties set out any financial agreement that they have reached at that time. It is the Clean Break Order that formally dismisses the right for you and your ex to ask for more money from each other in the future.
Without a Clean Break Order in place if you win the lottery, receive an inheritance, or simply get a better job and start earning more your ex spouse might be able to claim a share of your new found wealth. In a consent order, the parties set out any financial agreement that they have reached at that time. It is the clean break order that formally dismisses the right for you and your ex to ask for more money from each other in the future. Once drafted, approved and signed by both parties, it is submitted to the court for approval. The process is very straightforward and does not involve either party attending court in most circumstances.
There are instances where it is not appropriate, for instance when maintenance is being paid from one party to the other for a period of time. In this type of situation you can get a deferred order which takes account of the fact that payments continue until a certain point, for instance until there are no longer dependent children. An experienced family lawyer will be able to advise on what’s best for you but it is likely that in most cases, investing in a clean break order now will pay dividends well into the future.
It was great that I was able to reassure the client who’d sent me the clipping that yes, this was exactly what I was trying to protect him from.
Woolley & Co Divorce & Family Solicitors