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A Divorce for a Fistful of Dollars?

The Daily Mail today reports that Dina Eastwood, wife of Hollywood legend Clint has filed for divorce from her 83 year old husband.

It appears from the article that there may have been an element of indecision on Dina’s part, but she has now confirmed her intentions to formalise the end of the marriage.

The article refers to the Divorce proceedings citing “irreconcilable differences”, with Dina going on to seek sole custody of the couple’s 16 year old daughter and on-going spousal support. The divorce is of course being heard in California and, once again, it highlights some of the differences between the legal system there and our own law as it relates to divorce.

In England and Wales, the only one reason why a divorce can be granted is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. To prove this a spouse must rely on one of the five facts. Three of those are based on periods of separation of at least 2 years, so if a divorce is to go ahead before that period has lapsed the papers must cite either adultery or unreasonable behaviour. We simply do not have an equivalent to “irreconcilable differences”.

There is also no requirement in this country for divorcing couples to have a formal court document governing arrangements for Children. Although a divorce petition requires such arrangements to be considered, the vast majority of people will reach their own private agreement over where their children will live and how much time those children spend with the other parent. It is relatively rare (although by no means unheard of) for courts to rule on such issues.

As far as money is concerned, however, it is very important to have a court document which approves the financial settlement at the end of the marriage. Such an agreement, usually known as a “Consent Order”, will set out how capital is to be divided, what will happen with pensions and property assets and also address the question of maintenance for the financially “weaker” spouse. If there is no need for maintenance then the couple can have a “clean break”, helping them to go their own separate ways. Indeed, the courts in this country have a statutory duty to consider whether a clean break is possible in every case.

Whilst Decree Absolute of Divorce brings about the end of a marriage, so freeing people up to re-marry if they so wish, the financial claims which arise do not automatically end at the same time. Anyone who is divorced but who has not formally resolved financial issues may be storing up difficulties later in life and, potentially, even in death when an ex-wife or husband decides that they may still have an entitlement to a share of their former spouse’s assets. The financial order is therefore every bit as vital as the divorce proceedings.

It must be remembered that marriage is a contract which is brought to an end by divorce. As with any contract, there are legal and financial consequences which must be considered when it comes to an end.  Our team of Family Law Specialists at Slater and Gordon are here to provide advice tailored to the needs of the individual.

By Family Law Solicitor Ed Kitchen

For more information about Divorce, please email one of our Family Law Specialists at enquiries@slatergordon.co.uk or call us on 0800 916 9055.

 

Family law

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