Many people question why they need a financial court order. That’s because they assume that if they get divorced then their decree absolute of divorce finalises everything and there’s no need to get a financial court order as once you are divorced it is an automatic end to any financial ties with your former husband, wife or civil partner. Manchester divorce solicitors say that isn’t right and that a financial court order is essential to give you financial security and peace of mind. In this blog we answer your questions about financial court orders and why you need one after a separation or divorce or dissolution of your civil partnership.
Does a divorce end financial ties between husband and wife?
A divorce doesn’t end the financial ties between a husband and wife or between civil partners. The divorce or dissolution ends the legal relationship of marriage or civil partnership. However, there can be ongoing financial ties or the potential for one spouse or civil partner to start financial proceedings to make financial claims months or even years after the divorce or dissolution proceedings have been finalised through the pronouncement of your decree absolute.
How can I stop financial ties with my ex-husband or wife?
To stop financial ties with an ex-husband or wife you first of all need to look at what existing financial ties you have, such as:
- Is the family home still owned jointly? Is there a mortgage on the property? Could one spouse buy the other out and get the spouse released from the joint mortgage liability so that they can use their share of the equity and a mortgage to buy a new property?
- Are you waiting for the sale of a family home and still contributing towards the outgoings on the property until sale?
- Are you receiving or paying spousal maintenance?
- Do you own a family business and does your spouse or civil partner have a financial interest in the business or are they employed by the business?
- Are you retired and receiving some of your husband or wife’s pension each month to support yourself?
There are many other examples of financial ties between a husband and wife or between civil partners. You may not appreciate the extent of your existing financial ties or the potential financial claims. That is why it is best to take legal advice, preferably before you separate but, if not, as soon as you are able to do so after you or your partner has taken the decision to go your separate ways.
Will a prenuptial agreement stop financial ties if there is no court order?
If you signed a prenuptial agreement or a postnuptial agreement it is important to let your divorce solicitor know because the agreement may limit financial ties between you and your husband, wife or civil partner. In the UK a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement isn’t legally binding so it is best to take legal advice on your separation or divorce as you will still need a financial court order. That is the case whether or not you are both content with the financial terms set out in the prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement.
Will the death of a former husband or wife end the financial ties?
If your former husband, wife or civil partner passes away you may think that is the end to any financial ties but a surviving spouse or civil partner or a dependent former spouse or civil partner can bring a financial claim against the deceased spouse or civil partner’s estate if they can say that the Will or intestacy rules did not leave them with reasonable financial provision. That is why , if you are separating or divorcing, you not only need a financial court order to stop or limit any financial claims but you also need to review the provisions in your Will and take advice on how to avoid a claim against your estate.
Does a separation agreement stop financial ties between a husband and wife?
If you separate and decide that you don’t want to get divorced you may decide to sign a separation agreement to record how your financial affairs will be regulated. The separation agreement could provide for ongoing financial ties, for example, the payment of spousal maintenance or an agreement that the family home will stay in joint names and won’t be sold until your youngest child is eighteen. Alternatively, the separation agreement could say that you both agree that there are no more financial ties between you and neither of you will make any future financial claims against the other.
Like a prenuptial agreement, a separation agreement isn’t a legally binding document and one of you could try to start a financial claim, despite the contents of the agreement or could ask for more provision than that detailed in the agreement. Depending on the circumstances in which the separation agreement was drawn up, the contents of the separation agreement may be heavily influential if one of you were to start financial court proceedings. However, divorce solicitors always recommend that the contents of a separation agreement are converted into a binding financial court order as soon as you are able to do this because a clean break financial court order will give you both financial security and peace of mind.
Does a financial court order stop financial ties between an ex-husband and wife?
A financial court order will either stop or regulate financial ties between an ex-husband and wife or between civil partners.
A financial court order that says that there are no existing financial ties between an ex-husband and wife and that neither one of you can bring any further financial proceedings against the other or their estate is called a clean break financial court order. This type of court order can either be made by agreement and approved by a family judge or made after a contested court hearing and a ruling by a family law judge.
In many family scenarios you may not be able to achieve a clean break immediately, for example, because you are waiting for the sale of a family home or the sale or transfer of shares in a family business or the implementation of a pension sharing order. However, the court can make what is known as a deferred clean break financial court order. That means once assets have been sold and other aspects of the court order complied with there is a clean break and spouses or civil partners can’t bring any further financial claims.
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In some family situations it isn’t possible to end financial ties either immediately or in the long term. For example, in order to maintain a home for the children the family home may have to remain in joint names as you can’t sell the property and the spouse looking after the children in the home can’t get the mortgage company to transfer the existing mortgage into his or her name. You may only be able to sever financial ties when the family home is sold. Alternatively, if a former spouse or civil partner needs ongoing spousal maintenance for life you won’t be able to stop income financial ties until the spouse or civil partner who is receiving the spousal maintenance remarries.
As it isn’t always financially possible to achieve a complete financial clean break and the end of financial ties between a husband and wife you should try to achieve as much financial security as you can by:
- A capital clean break – this stops claims for more cash or for the transfer of assets but leaves open ongoing claims for spousal maintenance
- A deferred income clean break – this gives an immediate capital clean break so a spouse can’t ask for more cash such as money from the family home or for a bigger percentage of a pension but keeps open the income the financial ties until, for example, spousal maintenance payments stop. The court order could say that the spousal maintenance payments should stop after three years of maintenance payments with the clean break coming in automatically after three years because the court ruled that the spouse receiving the spousal maintenance should not be able to apply to extend the time spousal maintenance is paid for.
Have I got a clean break financial court order?
Divorce solicitors find that one of the most common reasons that people don’t understand their financial court order is that they don’t know if they have got an end to financial ties or not. A good divorce solicitor will spend the time with you so that you understand:
- The range of capital and income court orders that a family court can make either with the agreement of a husband and wife or after a contested court hearing
- The different types of clean break and end of financial ties that can be achieved
- Why a clean break may be very important in your particular financial and personal circumstances. For example, if you are a family business owner and you think that your business will significantly increase in value, you are the beneficiary of a discretionary trust, you anticipate receiving a substantial inheritance from a member of your family or you believe that your ex-husband or wife will squander their financial settlement and want to be able to ask for more from you
- The prospects of you achieving an immediate capital or income clean break financial court order if the judge had to make a ruling on whether to make a clean break financial court order. This information then enables you to try and negotiate and clean break with your former spouse and invite the court to make an agreed financial court order
- The risks associated with a clean break order. For example, if there is a contested court hearing your spouse after a long marriage may be likely to receive spousal maintenance for life. You could agree to give them a one-off cash lump sum instead of ongoing spousal maintenance to achieve your capital and income clean break. The risk to the payer is that spousal maintenance would not have to be paid if your former spouse remarried, predeceased you or if you lost your employment or business. The risk to the former spouse receiving the one off cash sum is that if the paying spouse’s income increased or business becomes more profitable they could have asked for an increase in the amount of spousal maintenance or for a bigger capitalised spousal maintenance figure. There isn’t often a right or wrong answer on whether or not to agree to a clean break as only you knows how valuable a clean break is in terms of having financial security. However, the important thing is that you are able to make an informed decision on what is best for you and your family.
Manchester divorce and financial settlement solicitors
Cheshire and Manchester based Evolve Family Law solicitors specialise in resolving financial issues after a separation or divorce. For legal assistance with financial court orders or any other aspect of family law call Evolve Family Law or complete our online enquiry form to set up an appointment, a video conference call or telephone appointment.