Hooray – bigger weddings are back on! But have you thought about the financial consequences if your longed-for marriage doesn’t work out? 

They say that every cloud has a silver lining, and this is certainly true when it comes to the latest Government announcement on the lifting of Covid restrictions.  While it was bad news for theatres, nightclubs and festivals, it was good news for couples who are looking to tie the knot in the coming weeks and months as it will now be possible to have more than 30 guests present, provided your chosen venue can accommodate a larger gathering while still adhering to Covid secure rules. 

This will come as a relief to brides and grooms up and down the country, many of whom could have been at risk of losing significant sums of money had it been necessary to put their weddings on hold.

And talking of money (apologies in advance for the tenuous link), I thought I would use this week’s blog to focus on the ‘not so nice to think about’ issue of what happens to a couple’s finances where the unthinkable happens and their longed-for marriage doesn’t ultimately work out….

Who gets the family home and car?

Who gets the savings and investments?

Who pays what when it comes to looking after the children?

What happens to your respective pensions?

Is your spouse entitled to any money you earnt or inherited before you got married?

Can the bride keep a pre-wedding gift of money – a common question when an Asian marriage fails.

And what if you have got a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement?  Can these be enforced?

Everything gets split equally – doesn’t it?

It is a common misconception that when you get divorced, all assets are automatically divided on a 50/50 basis.  While this may be the presumed outcome where you have been married for a long time, have no dependant children and all of your money and property has been acquired during the course of your union, it will not necessarily be the outcome in many other cases – including those where you or your former spouse already had significant assets or an established business before your marriage took place or where your marriage has been relatively short and childless.

So what are the rules when it comes to deciding who gets what?

The rules governing financial matters on divorce are contained in a combination of laws made by the Government and by the courts.  These rules can be difficult to navigate and apply to your own circumstances, which is why in all but the most straightforward of cases it will usually be appropriate for you to seek advice from a divorce lawyer.

Quick heads up: I offer a free initial consultation in all divorce cases, during which I can give you a good idea of where you stand and of the likely view a court will take in determining how your matrimonial assets should be dealt with.

Government made rules

Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 sets out a series of factors that will need to be taken into account to decide how financial matters between you and your former spouse ought to be settled.

The welfare needs of any children under the age of 18 must come first, followed by consideration of:

  •       your respective income, earning capacity, property holdings and other financial resources; 
  •       your financial needs, obligations and ongoing responsibilities; 
  •       the standard of living you both enjoyed before your marriage broke down;
  •       your respective ages;
  •       how long your marriage lasted;
  •       whether either of you suffer from a physical or mental disability;
  •       any contribution either of you have made to the welfare of your family – for example, by agreeing to give up work in order to care for your children or to run the family home;
  •       the way in which you have each conducted yourself, where your conduct is relevant; and
  •       whether either of you stand to lose out on the acquisition of any sort of benefit as a result of your marriage now ending in divorce.

Court made law  

Judges are constantly making decisions which have the potential to impact the way in which divorce cases are handled, and to ensure you benefit from these it is important to keep abreast of developments.

One such case is that of White v White, which was decided back in 2000 by the then highest court in England, the House of Lords (which has since been replaced by the Supreme Court).

In this case it was decided that when a judge is trying to determine how to sort out a divorcing couple’s financial affairs, what he or she should be striving to achieve is not an order which merely ensures that each party has what they need to meet their reasonable needs and requirements, but rather an order which is fair in all the circumstances and which treats a spouse who has gone out to work to earn the money equally with a spouse who has stayed at home to look after the family and run the home.  

There was nothing in section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 at the time the case was decided to say that this was the approach that should be taken, but nonetheless it is the approach that all judges now adopt and which is why stay-at-home partners have started to receive more generous settlements.

There was also a landmark decision from the Supreme Court in 2010, in the case of Radmacher v Granatino, where it was held that while pre-nuptial agreements are not currently legally binding in the UK, the court should give effect to them where they have been freely entered into by a couple who fully understood the implications of what they were agreeing to and where circumstances have not changed to such an extent that it would now be unfair to hold the couple to the terms of the deal that they struck.

By appointing a lawyer, you can be sure that account will be taken of any recent court decisions which may work in your favour and which may help you to achieve the best financial outcome possible as you move onto the next chapter in your life…..

Need help?

If you have recently separated from your spouse or civil partner and need help to sort out your financial affairs, please send me a direct message in order to arrange a free and confidential, no obligation consultation.  Alternatively, you can call us or email us at info@primelegalsolicitors.co.uk.

By speaking to me at an early stage, it may be possible for you and your soon to be ex-spouse to reach an agreement about the division of your money and property (and the ongoing maintenance of your children) without the need to get the court involved – thereby saving you both a significant amount of time, money and stress.  And where an agreement cannot be negotiated, I can support you through the court process to ensure that you get the financial settlement that you need and deserve.    

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