Windfalls could make you a big loser – if there’s a long-lost ex-partner lurking

Year Published: 2008

Everybody dreams of a windfall as a springboard to easy wealth, but few would welcome the follow-up nightmare of losing big chunks of it for the sake of a poorly planned divorce settlement.

Windfalls – whether lottery win or business fortune – have now become a legitimate target for former spouses after a woman from West London successfully claimed a £220,000 slice of her former husband’s £1million–plus assets – 22 years after separation.

Head of the Family team at Cheshire law firm SAS Daniels LLP, says that rushed separations and divorces now potentially leave thousands of ex-partners exposed to the possibility of a big settlement claim even if they haven’t been in touch for years.

“The woman in London never formally divorced, but when she did file – more than 20 years on – the judge agreed to award a £220,000 settlement from assets and successful property investments made by her ex-husband who had previously provided no emotional or financial support for her or their child,” said the team head.

“While it might be argued that was a valid claim, in a wealth-obsessed 21st century, many people would see claiming the share of a windfall gained by a former partner to be a legitimate action, and an easy way to wealth.

“The case of the West London lady highlights how important it is to ensure that a divorce is properly conducted, and that a watertight ‘clean break order’ is agreed through solicitors.

“A ‘clean break order’ is intended, once and for all, to end all the financial claims either spouse may have against the other. Once such an order is made, the court will dismiss all financial claims that the spouses may have for ever, even after one of them dies.

“It is important to remember that the clean break only operates between the spouses themselves. It is not possible for the spouses to settle all claims for the future financial provision of the children in this way.

“A clean break order will involve agreement over division of assets – whether money, goods or property – leaving nothing in doubt.”

SAS Daniels LLP solicitors has offices in Stockport, Macclesfield, Chester, Congleton, and Bramhall.

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