Family & divorce

Wife receives financial settlement 24 years after divorcing

The Supreme Court has ruled that a wife is entitled to a financial settlement from her ex-husband despite separating over 31 years ago, finally divorcing in 1992. This is a particularly unusual case because of the long time delay in bringing the claim and the fact that, for a large proportion of that time neither party had, due to their alternative lifestyles, any visible means of support, other than state benefits.

Contemplating separation instead of divorce

Many couples prefer to reach an agreement about financial matters arising out of their separation without involving the Court at all. The way this can be achieved is for the parties to sign a written agreement, which is more informal and records the terms of the separation.

Make sure you include pensions in divorce negotiations

Pensions, as an asset to be divided up in the event of divorce, can be easily overlooked in favour of more tangible assets such as cash and property when couples are negotiating who gets what. In December 2000, the rules governing the apportioning of pension assets between divorcing couples changed in an effort to remove some of the inequity inherent in the previous regime by introducing pension sharing. This allows for a proportion of the pension (usually, but not always, the husband’s) to be put into a new, completely separate scheme for the benefit of the ex-spouse.

Mediation becomes compulsory for divorcing couples

In an effort to reduce the number of divorce cases ending up in court, the government started to encourage divorcing couples to use mediation as the first port of call. Since April 2011, any application to issue court proceedings was supposed to be accompanied by a form (FM1) that confirmed that mediation had been considered in all cases involving money and/or children. As it transpired, this requirement appeared to be largely ignored and court proceedings commenced regardless, with no obvious sanctions for non-compliance. Therefore, under the Family and Children Act 2013, attending an initial Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) (which is essentially an introduction to the mediation process, not the process itself) became mandatory in April 2014, except for cases where safety (primarily domestic violence and / or abuse) is an issue.
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