• January 2017
    That was the year that was

    As well as widely-reported political changes, 2016 has seen several cases affecting financial settlements for couples whose relationships are breaking down.  What follows is a brief roundup.

    In one case an ex civil partner realised when her ex partner’s estate was probated, several years after their split, that financial disclosure to the court had been “materially incomplete”.  The estate was “frozen” and the financial settlement in the civil partnership proceedings were re-opened.

    In another case, not long after a consent order sorting out finances in divorce proceedings, the husband realised from newspaper articles that his wife had materially undervalued her company.  He successfully applied to set the order aside and re-open the financial settlement.   Although conduct has to be outrageous and unconscionable to affect a financial settlement, there was a sting in the tail on costs because of “litigation conduct”.  The wife denied wrongdoing, co-operating with disclosure only at the eleventh hour.  The judge ordered her to pay the husband’s costs on an indemnity basis.  However he had leaked confidential information to the press when the wife eventually disclosed.  The judge reduced her costs liability by 50%.

    Although the statute does not put a time limit after decree absolute for applying, indications from recent cases are that the longer it’s left, the less the applicant may be judged to need financial provision.  You won’t get a bean either if your financial application is made after re-marriage.

    If you’re simply living together, remember there is no such thing as a common law spouse or civil partner.  The financially weaker member of the couple may be entitled to nothing whatever their needs, the lifestyle and contributions.  In one case a woman was held to an agreement made verbally during a discussion on a park bench many years before because she didn’t deny the agreement when her partner’s solicitors wrote to her outlining it, and he performed his part.

    The learning points are to make full disclosure and act promptly.

    For further information please contact Ruth Jenkins at or call 01473 255591.

    This article provides only a general summary and is not intended to be comprehensive.  Special legal advice should be taken in any individual situation.

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