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Ask The Legal Expert: Financial Claims Following Divorce

View profile for Matthew Wells
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Matthew Wells, Family Solicitor, Resolution Specialist and expert in divorce, financial disputes and cohabitation agreements, highlights the issue of financial claims following a divorce.

My wife was the petitioner in our divorce in 2008 and at that time she assured me she would not make any financial claim against me as long as I provided for our children.  I did so and have now funded my children through university. But my ex-wife is now threatening to pursue a financial claim against me in Court. Can she do this so long after our split?

In principle there is no time limitation on a claim like this one from your ex-wife. If you were represented during your divorce proceedings your solicitor should have advised you to address the all-important financial aspects of your divorce at an early stage in proceedings and to obtain a Court Order concluding the financial matters, to avoid the difficult situation you face now, years later. 

The Court’s approach to financial claims made after a significant period of time has elapsed will vary depending on the specific facts of each case. 

In the recent and much-reported case of Wyatt –v- Vince [2015] the Supreme Court refused to allow the Wife’s financial claim against the Husband to be “struck out” (dismissed), even though the couple had divorced 22 years earlier and the entirety of the Husband’s significant wealth had been generated solely by him at least 13 years after the breakdown of the relationship.  The Supreme Court made it clear that there was no time-limit for seeking orders for financial provision for the benefit of a spouse following a divorce. 

Since your ex-wife was the Petitioner in your divorce, it is likely she has already made an application for a Financial Order in the section of her Divorce Petition called “the Prayer”.  If this is the case, she can now make a straightforward application to the Court to proceed with her application.

However, if your ex-wife has not already made an application for a financial Order, and if she has subsequently remarried, she will fall into the “remarriage trap”.  According to Section 28(3) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 if, after divorce, a party remarries or forms a civil partnership they are not entitled to apply against a former spouse for financial provision arising from that marriage. 

Since you were the Respondent in your Divorce you should consider issuing an application for a Financial Order by filing a Form A with the Court prior to your own remarriage – if you have such plans. Otherwise you would potentially fall into the remarriage trap yourself and could not pursue a financial claim against your ex-wife.

I strongly advise you to consult an experienced family solicitor so they can advise you according to the specific circumstances of your case.

The question posed in this blog is based on a hypothetical situation.

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