Q: My wife and I divorced three years ago after a long marriage because we both realised our feelings had changed and there was no point carrying on. As everything was agreed we did not instruct solicitors; we just paid the court fee and did everything else ourselves and then went our separate ways. I now live with a new partner and we intend to buy a property together. As we didn't deal with finances when we got divorced, can my ex wife claim against my assets?
A: Most people are unaware that divorce and finances are two separate issues and that divorce does not necessarily prevent parties from claiming against each other's finances in the future. Generally, it is advisable to deal with finances, including property and pensions, before decree absolute is granted.
Even if financial matters are agreed it is best to have them recorded in a ‘consent order' which is then sent to the court for approval by a judge. If financial matters are not agreed, an application for a Financial Order can be made. When considering what Order to make the court will give consideration to all the circumstances of your case, with first consideration being given to any child under eighteen years. The Court will also look at differences in your earning capacity and both your needs, your previous standard of living, your ages and any contribution either of you made to the marriage.
It is advisable to sort out the financial situation between you and your ex-wife so that a Clean Break can be Ordered, so ensuring there can be no future claims between you in life - or against your estate should you die. If there is no clean break, then your ex-wife can in theory re-open a claim against you in the future. You should seek urgent advice from an experienced family lawyer.