Q: The pressure of COVID lockdowns and home working has ended our marriage. As there is no animosity I was planning to move out, rent somewhere and leave my wife to sell the house. Then after two years living apart, we can apply for a divorce on those grounds, get our Decree Absolute and get on with our lives.
Well, that was the plan until a friend said that if we don’t settle the finances first, and our friendship turns sour, my wife could make a claim on my pension twenty-five years on. Could this really happen?
A: Many people mistakenly believe that having obtained a Decree Absolute from the Court dissolving the marriage, matters are finalised. Whilst a Decree Absolute from the court will end your marriage, leaving you both free to remarry, it does not however end your financial responsibilities; for that you must obtain a ‘clean break’ Order from the court.
Without a clean break Order, if you were to get, for example, a surprise windfall or an inheritance, your wife would technically have a claim against that money and would be entitled to apply to the Court for a share of it. Similarly, if you have a retirement pension, without a clean break Order she can apply to the Court asking for a share of it when you retire, even if the divorce has been finalised by a Decree Absolute.
In addition, if you die and have any money in your estate and you have not obtained a clean break Order from the Court, even if you have subsequently remarried and many years have elapsed, your estate could be dragged through the Courts by your ex, trying to get a share of your money. Divorce is rarely as simple as it seems. As most solicitors provide tailored legal advice for a fixed fee you would be wise to make an appointment with a Family & Matrimonial Solicitor.
Article January 2021
This question has been answered by Alison Peters, a Partner with GHP Legal. If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients. Where possible, we ask that you communicate with us by phone or email.