Decree Absolute Ends Marriage but Not Financial Commitments
30 January 2020
A Decree Absolute legally ends a marriage in England and Wales but it does not end your financial commitments to your ex-spouse.
Unless you also put a Clean Break Order or a Consent Order in place, your ex-spouse could be able to make a financial claim against you in the future, even if you acquired the money after your divorce. In this article, we explain how to make a Clean Break Order or Consent Order and what the risks are if you don't sever financial ties with your ex.
Divorce Financial Agreements
When getting a divorce you and your spouse need to agree on how you'll divide the property, money and any other assets that you own (either solely or jointly). Some people can reach an informal decision between themselves and so do not feel the need to involve a Divorce Lawyer in these discussions. However, it's important to note that unless this agreement is formalised then this may not be the end of the financial matters.
The final stage of the divorce process in England and Wales is to obtain a document called a Decree Absolute. This confirms the marriage has legally ended, and once it has been issued each person is free to remarry. When the Decree Absolute comes through, many people believe that this is the end of the matter. It's true that the Decree Absolute ends the legal contract of marriage, but according to English law a Decree Absolute does not sever the financial ties between the couple.
This may come as a surprise and it is something you need to seriously consider before applying for a Decree Absolute.
Financial Claims after Divorce
Even if you and your ex agreed on the division of finances at the time of your divorce, unless the agreement has been made legally binding in the Courts your ex could still make a financial claim. There is no time limit for making a claim, so it could be a matter of years before this happens.
Often financial claims are made because one person has reflected that the Divorce Financial Settlement was not actually fair, and that their ex-spouse should have made a greater financial contribution. They might think the divorce was rushed through at the time and in hindsight feel dissatisfied with the deal that was struck.
Or it may be that one person acquires a considerable amount of money after the divorce, perhaps through business success or an inheritance. If so, someone may make a claim on their ex-spouse's new found wealth, especially if they have been left to raise the children as a single parent.
Consent Orders and Clean Break Orders
The only way to avoid a financial claim being made against you after a divorce is with a Court Order. There are different types of Court Order available, and if you are interested in protecting your finances, you should consider putting a Consent Order or a Clean Break Order in place.
A__ Divorce Clean Break Order__ is for people who currently have no assets to divide, but who want to ensure any financial ties are severed. Often people assume because they have no assets they don't need a Financial Order. But what about if you do acquire wealth later on in life? Were this to happen, a Clean Break Order would prevent your ex-spouse from making a financial claim against you further down the line, essentially ring-fencing any money you acquire in the future.
A__ Divorce Consent Order__ is for those who have assets to divide at the time. This Court Order formalises the financial agreement between you and your ex, setting out how you are going to split your savings, property, pensions and any other assets that you own. Like a Clean Break Order, once this has been made legally-binding by the Court, your ex-spouse will not be able to pursue a financial claim against you.
Talk to a Divorce Solicitor
A Consent Order or Clean Break Order needs to be obtained before you apply for a Decree Absolute. Even if you feel like a Court Order is unnecessary, it's a good idea to have one in place for security purposes. You may still be on good terms with your ex at the moment, but trust can break down and attitudes to each other can change.
Without a Court Order, you face the potential threat of a financial claim in the future, even if you acquired the money after your relationship ended.