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.

Landmark divorce ruling

Justin Creed said the outcome of the case brought to the Supreme Court by Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil emphasises the duty to be honest in producing financial information when negotiating settlements on divorce.

Changes in child maintenance payments

The new Child Maintenance Service, which started its roll-out in December 2012, is replacing the Child Support Agency which stopped taking new cases in 2013. The CSA was heavily criticised by both users and others who regularly dealt with it. Not only was it expensive, estimated to cost in the region of £74m per year, but also the IT system supporting it was seen to be wholly inadequate and responsible for numerous mistakes which caused both anger and anguish among those it was intended to help. The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) is designed to be more flexible with the emphasis on encouraging parents to sort out maintenance payments between themselves rather than involving the state.

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.

Matrimonial property, needs and agreements

The Law Commission launched a consultation in 2012 (which built on two previous consultations in 2009 and 2011 covering pre-nuptial agreements and reform of marital property agreements respectively) with the aim of clarifying the particularly vexed of question of how to achieve fair financial provision in the event of marriage or civil partnership breakdown. The Commission received 150 responses from a cross section of people including members of the general public, the legal profession and other interested organisations.
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