A lot of people that we speak to have got to the stage where the marriage has irretrievably broken down, they may or may not still be living together, and often still have a number of joint assets; for example a house together.
Obviously starting again on your own is financially difficult and therefore the last thing you want to be doing is forking out extra money by way of legal fees. But how important are those legal fees?
What most people don’t realise is that a divorce itself does not dismiss financial claims that you and your spouse have against one another. These have to be formally dismissed, and this is done separately to the divorce. You can dismiss the claims by way of a consent order, a court order, or the claims can be dismissed one way if one of the parties remarries. Most people will seek to dismiss their financial claims by way of a consent order, as this means matters have been negotiated between them and they have reached an agreement as to how the finances shall be divided up.
A consent order is best drafted by a specialist Divorce Solicitor as it does contain a number of legal terms, and if drafted incorrectly can result in claims not being properly dismissed and also prevent later enforcement. But of course there is a cost for a Divorce Solicitor to undertake any work for you. Many people are reluctant to incur costs in order to finalise the financial claims, or are willing to simply leave matters for a while and then deal with them later. The most common excuses being ‘I haven’t got the money right now’, or ‘ We haven’t got much anyway’.
It is however important to remember that whilst you may not have much now, if you continue on and leave your financial claims open, your spouse will technically have a claim against any property, income or pension that you accrue in the future. Whilst a Divorce Solicitor can argue that these assets were accrued ‘post separation’, there is no guarantee that if the matter was placed in the court arena, that they would not make an order that takes the asset into consideration. Especially if it is a case where the needs of the parties require that asset.
Recently, Slater and Gordon Divorce Paralegal Rachel Furniss worked on a case in Milton Keynes where she saw a client who had reached an agreement with her husband. They had sold the jointly owned house and the husband had received a lump sum, and her client had purchased another property in her sole name.
To her client’s knowledge, matters had been dealt with and finalised but there had never been a consent order drafted and sealed by the court to reflect their agreement. The husband had recently instructed Solicitors to request full financial disclosure with a view to seeking a further lump sum or a charge over the client’s solely owned property. Essentially trying to have two bites at the cherry. This is a prime example of why financial claims should be dealt with as soon as possible following separation, and should wherever possible be drafted into a consent order.
Although Solicitors fees can be considered expensive, dealing with legal matters early may in fact save you more money in the long run. At Slater and Gordon Lawyers we offer fixed price family law services where possible to ensure that our client’s know their legal costs upfront.
Rachel Furniss is a Paralegal in the Family Law team at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Milton Keynes.
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