For those going through marital separation, the act of divorce can feel like a chance to draw a line under a faltering relationship and start afresh.
But unless you have followed the proper procedures, your decree absolute may not provide you with the formal closure you hoped.
In one recent case, a divorced wife who secured almost 100 per cent of the available cash when her marriage broke up 15 years ago won a fresh order that her ex-husband must support her for life – because she has spent all the money in unwise property investments.
Former estate agent Maria Mills, 51, received a £230,000 lump sum in 2002, plus £1,100 monthly personal maintenance payments, when she split from her “reliable and truthful” 50-year-old husband, Graham Mills, after 13 years of marriage.
But she lost it all and fell heavily into debt, after investing “unwisely” in a series of ever more “upmarket” London properties in a bid to climb the housing ladder, a court heard.
Judges at London’s Appeal Court have now ordered that Mrs Mills’ monthly payments to be increased to £1,441 and told her ex-husband he must support her for life, because she is “unable to meet her basic needs”.
Mr Mills earlier claimed that he “should not be the insurer against the wife’s poor financial decisions” and forced to “pick up the tab” 15 years after they split.
His barrister, Philip Cayford QC, called for changes in the law to limit maintenance and encourage “independence” after divorce.
The ruling flew in the face of recent judgments in which courts had been moving towards ending life-time maintenance in a series of rulings, he added.
The case will fuel pressure for reform of the system, ending the so-called “meal ticket for life” and setting limits on how long former spouses can seek maintenance.
How can our divorce lawyers help?
Even if you believe that your financial situation is relatively straightforward, failure to seek expert legal advice could have serious financial consequences years later.
For instance, if you do not have a formal Financial Order drawn up and signed by both you and your ex-spouse and confirmed by the court, either one of you could make a claim on each other’s future earnings, long after the decree absolute was issued.
That could mean that you are forever looking over your shoulder if, for example, you receive a financial windfall after your divorce.
Issues surrounding child arrangements (custody), property and pensions can further complicate the matter – and increase the need for expert guidance.
We offer a tailored service, ensuring we are at your side every step of the way – and giving you the peace of mind that you won’t be dealt any nasty surprises in the months and years to come.
To find out more or to make a fixed fee appointment, call 01473 211121 or email [email protected]