Can My Ex Claim My Money or Assets After Divorce?
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Can my ex-husband or wife claim any money after the divorce?
For those hoping that a no-fault divorce would make splitting your assets easier, I’m afraid to say that the new law did not touch on separating money and assets.
A divorce does not end financial commitments as husband or wife, which makes it possible for former spouses to claim against their ex in the future.
A spouse’s ability to submit a financial claim against you will depend on two factors;
- If they have remarried
- If a financial consent order was applied for and approved by the courts
When you get divorced, you do not automatically sever financial ties with your ex-husband or wife – unless you obtain a financial order from the court.
Without obtaining a consent order a former spouse can claim money from their ex many years (sometimes even decades) after the divorce.
Not only can an ex-wife or husband claim a portion of the money that existed within the marriage (eg if there were joint savings) – but, more importantly, they can also make a claim on future earnings or financial windfalls.
For example, in the case of Wyatt v Vince, future business success by one party meant that their former spouse could claim money many years after the divorce.
Can I protect my finances or future wealth from being claimed against, if so, how?
As we touched on earlier, there are only two legal scenarios that can prevent your ex-partner from being able to claim against you in the future.
The first is probably beyond your control, if they should re-marry your spouse gives up their rights to claim against you.
The second way is to obtain a financial order from the court such as a clean break order.
These types of legal agreements prevent both parties from submitting a future claim against the other in the future.
You can apply for a financial order after the conditional order (‘decree nisi’) is granted in divorce proceedings and any time up until one party remarries.
However, a spouse’s rights to certain assets may be affected if you apply after the divorce is granted, such as rights to pensions.
How long after divorce can my ex-wife make a financial claim against me?
There is no time limit on how long after a divorce financial claims can be made by one former spouse against the other. This significant legal precedent was also established in the landmark case of Wyatt v Vince.
The Supreme Court ruled that the former wife of a multimillionaire was able to claim money from her ex-husband nearly two decades after their divorce.
The main facts of the case were as follows:
- Dale Vince and Kathleen Wyatt were married in 1981
- During their marriage they were poor new age travellers living on benefits; there were hardly any significant assets to distribute upon their divorce
- Dale and Kathleen separated in 1984 and were finally divorced in 1992
- After their divorce, Dale went into business and founded green energy supplier Ecotricity which led to him accumulating an estimated wealth in excess of £100 million
In 2010, 18 years after they got divorced, Kathleen lodged a claim for financial support; although it was initially blocked by the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court overturned this ruling and established the precedent that there is no time limit for ex-spouses to make financial claims against one another.
Can my ex-wife claim half of my new house and other assets I’ve acquired after the divorce?
Any assets you acquire after your divorce are only protected against a future claim by a former spouse if there is a financial court order in place that severs both you and your ex-partner’s right to make any such claim.
The ‘matrimonial pot’ which essentially comprises the collection of assets that need to be divided between a couple getting divorced will normally be split 50:50.
However, as well as this initial principle of equality there is a separate one of fairness which can skew the equal division of assets (eg if any minor children are going to predominantly live with one parent, the other parent/spouse will often get a smaller percentage of overall assets).
It all comes down to the individual circumstances of the divorce. In general, working out how to divide assets in a divorce will be resolved at the time of divorce with a financial settlement.
In the absence of a clean break consent order, this matter may need to be dealt with long after the divorce.