You may think that that dealing with your own divorce or dissolution of civil partnership is easier and more cost effective than instructing a Solicitor to deal with it for you. Unfortunately the opposite can be the case.
You may think that once the Decree Absolute or final order is pronounced that ends any ties and involvement with your former spouse or civil partner. However, if you have not resolved all financial matters between you by way of a Financial Consent Order or Final Financial Court Order before the divorce is finalised, then your former spouse/civil partner can (providing they have not remarried) make an application to Court for financial relief at a later date.
Rights to claim maintenance or property do not diminish over time and there is no limitation period. You can therefore usually still apply for a Consent Order even after your Decree Absolute. This could mean that any number of years after a divorce has concluded a former spouse can still bring a claim, even after one of you has died. The only time a claim cannot usually be brought is if the spouse has remarried before making an application. This should obviously be borne in mind if you are the one seeking to make a claim against your former spouse or civil partner as this would prevent you from being able to apply to the Court to distribute the assets. Also if your spouse or civil partner were to die before financial matters were resolved by way of a Court Order, you will no longer be your spouse or civil partner’s widow/widower and you may therefore lose your entitlement to benefit under the terms of their pension or any life policies that they may have. You may, however, be able to pursue a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975.
The court will consider the value of the assets at the date the case comes before it rather than at the date of separation. Therefore, if you come into any money, property or assets, whether by way of inheritance, gifts, lottery wins, or by your own success after your divorce, your former spouse or civil partner could still make a claim against you for a share of those assets.
You should also be aware that you may still be financially associated with your former spouse or civil partner. Therefore, if your spouse or civil partner has an adverse credit rating, this could affect your ability to obtain credit. If your spouse or civil partner were to declare themselves bankrupt or be made bankrupt, this could affect your financial situation, particularly if you own assets jointly.
In some circumstances you must have a consent order, for example if you want to divide a pension there must be a court order known as a Pension Sharing Order. In the majority of cases you should have a consent order if your agreement is straightforward, as the clean break clauses will protect you from future claims and ensure that your full and final settlement cannot be undone. If you want certainty, then you need a court order before the Decree Absolute is pronounced which sets out the terms of your agreement in relation to finances on a once and for all basis and dismisses the rights you both have to make claims either during your lifetime or after your death.
Are you going through a divorce or are you already divorced but are concerned that financial matters have not been fully concluded? Don’t delay, contact one of our South Wales family law specialists today for advice.