Family law

Divorcees suffer on retirement
1 March, 2018

The expected annual income a divorcee can expect to retire on is £3800 a year less than those who have never divorced, according to new research undertaken by Prudential.

This is not a particularly striking revelation as the stress of a divorce can be considerable, and this can sometimes mean the divorcing parties focus on their immediate financial needs, and not on their long-term financial outlook.

This research is important because it highlights the need to not only address your pension upon divorce, but to also continue paying into it post-divorce; to that end, it is imperative that you are advised on this most complex of assets if you are engaged in, or contemplating divorce proceedings.

The research undertaken by Prudential also revealed that those who are divorced are more likely to retire in debt (23%) than those who have never been divorced (16%). However, it is not all doom and gloom for divorcees, and whilst if you divorce you are more likely to be in debt, the actual amount of your indebtedness (£30,500) is typically lower than your non-divorced counterpart (£36,000).

Again, this revelation is not particularly surprising, as divorce does provide the opportunity to assess, understand and re-organise all your assets, and plan their utilisation going forwards post-divorce. This usually provides the divorcee with the opportunity to take stock of their financial situation, and take steps to address and mitigate the level of any debt they may have.

If you are contemplating divorce proceedings, it is imperative that you understand the long-term financial implications, and take active steps to ensure that you future-proof your finances. The best place to start is with a specialist family solicitor; if you would like to discuss any of the issues above, or indeed any other aspect of family law, then please contact Claire Tollefson on 01892 506191 or for a free, no obligation telephone call.


January blues? Looking forward
26 January, 2018

Statistics show that the number of separating couples regularly spikes in January. This is perhaps not surprising. Christmas is an intense period, carrying high expectations for fun, frivolity and wonderful presents, all fuelled by the power of advertising.  Immediate and extended family are thrown together, present buying in overcrowded shops is costly and stressful, the cold and dreary weather doesn’t help and neither do all the winter illnesses; it can all conspire to bring a relationship to breaking point.


So, what are your options if you find yourself in this unfortunate situation?


Try taking some time out for yourself, and for each other. Sometimes, a short holiday away, separately or together, can allow you both to gain some perspective, remember what made the relationship work in the first place, and what you need to do to fix it. This need not be a holiday to the Caribbean or even a local walking holiday together, a few hours out at a time on a regular basis, away from the usual routine and pressures, can help you both reconnect.


You could go and see a relationship counsellor. Counselling can be helpful because it gives you time away from your situation, and to view and understand your circumstances from a fresh perspective, with some helpful guidance from a trained outsider. It also allows you and your partner to discuss complex and confidential issues in a reassuring and confidential environment. An initial session with a counsellor can be all that is needed to gain some clarity, and to work on bringing new life to a relationship, or, to take the appropriate steps to bring it to an end.


Have a discussion with a family solicitor anyway, whatever option you may choose. This need not spell the definite end of a relationship but can be a one off meeting to discuss what life might look like financially and with arrangements for any children should the relationship be brought to an end. It can help you feel more in control and informed about the consequences of ending a relationship and realities of life after that. It is important that if you are considering ending your relationship, you know exactly what this entails.


Our family team appreciates that separations can be distressing. Our approach is sensitive and explains your options and their consequences clearly and carefully. All our family solicitors belong to Resolution, an organisation committed to the constructive resolution of relationship disputes.


If you would like further information in relation to the contents of this post, or any aspect of family law, please contact Sophie Barrett on 01892 506249 or

Cohabitants are the fastest growing family type
14 November, 2017

According to the latest statistics from the Office of National Statistics, cohabitants number 3.3 million of 19 million families in the UK, having more than doubled from 1.5 million families in 1996.    The latest Families and Households statistical bulletin suggests that this can be explained by an increasing trend to cohabit instead of marry, or to cohabit before marriage, particularly at younger ages.

This trend makes it all the more necessary to consider the financial impact of the breakdown of the relationship.  As the law stands, it is possible to live together for years, and even have children together, and then leave when the relationship breaks down with no responsibility taken for those left behind, save for child maintenance.  This can cause great difficulties for the financially weaker party, and is in stark contrast to the protection provided for married couples by law.

Resolution, the national organisation of family lawyers, has called for the introduction of some rights for cohabiting couples when they separate.  Other countries such as Australia, Canada and Scotland already provide legal protection. 

There is a balance to be struck however, between those who make a deliberate decision to cohabit, and who do not want or need the protection of legislation, and those who don’t.  A key issue that needs to be addressed is ensuring that those who cohabit are aware at the outset exactly what rights they have.  According to research in 2013, almost half the British public believe in the myth of ‘common law marriage’ – that cohabitants have the same or similar rights as married people.  This is untrue.  It will be interesting to see whether legislation addressing the disparity between provision for cohabitants and married couples will be forthcoming.  

If you would like any information about cohabitation and what steps can be taken to protect you or your family on the breakdown of your relationship please contact Claire Tollefson on 01892 506191.

Divorce agreements which can go wrong !
19 October, 2017

Many divorcing couples think that once they have obtained their decree absolute of divorce, and divided their assets, then this will bring to an end the legal obligations that they have to each other. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

There was a high profile case last year, called Briers and Briers (2017 EWCA Civ 15)

Mr and Mrs Briers divorced in 2005 with Mr Briers transferring to his wife the family home, which had an approximate value of £700,000, and providing a lump sum of £150,000 to pay off the mortgage.  In exchange, Mr Briers retained his business which he had started, in the garage of the family home in 1998, with the sum of £81.  Both Mr and Mrs Briers were full time teachers at the time. 

In 2013, eight years after the divorce, Mrs Briers made an application to the court for the financial issues arising out of the earlier divorce to be decided.

The critical factor was that Mr Briers, in the interim period, had managed to transform his fledgling business into a major fashion chain, incorporating well known brands, such as Lambretta and Vision Street Wear, with an annual turnover up to £30 million ! Whilst Mr Briers was building up his fashion empire, Mrs Briers continued to teach and look after the children of the family. 

Mr Briers argued in court that there was a verbal agreement between him and his former wife, which provided for him to transfer the family home to her etc, and that he should not therefore have to pay anything more.

When the case reached the Court of Appeal, the court said that there had been no agreement between the husband and wife in 2005 that would prevent the wife from making a financial claim and that whilst the delay on her part was relevant, this did not knock out her claims.

The court said that the wife had continued to contribute, after the divorce, to the family by looking after the children, and this was a highly relevant factor.  On this basis, the court agreed that Mrs Briers was entitled to approximately one third of Mr Briers’ current assets/wealth.

The crucial step that a divorcing couple should take, once they have agreed how to divide the assets, is to obtain a court order which confirms that the agreement is in full and final satisfaction of the financial claims of the wife and husband. This will prevent either spouse from being able to go back to court many years later to ask for more money.

Such court orders, known as “consent orders”, are relatively easy to obtain and having one brings certainty that the agreement reached can not be undone many years later.

If you would like to discuss any issue arising out of the above, please contact Benjamin Carter by email at benjamin.carter@

What do I do if I think my spouse is hiding assets?
25 September, 2017

During financial remedy proceedings or as part of a voluntary process such as mediation, both parties will have a duty to the court and to one another to give full, frank and clear disclosure of their financial (and other relevant) circumstances. If a court is not provided with all of the information relevant to a certain case, it will not be able to properly exercise its discretion under section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, the relevant legislation, to determine a financial remedy order.

The court is very clear about this obligation from the outset of all proceedings and the Resolution Code of Practice requires all family lawyers to emphasise to clients the importance of being open and honest. Any failure to provide full disclosure could risk a final order being set aside and in extremely severe circumstances, criminal proceedings can be brought against the offending party if they are found to be deliberately untruthful. Unfortunately, these deterrents do not appear to be enough for some parties to stop and take note of their obligations and non-disclosure continues to be a problem for many divorcing couples. There is some light out there for the weaker party with the court offering the following assistance:

  1. During proceedings, you can invite the court to draw adverse inferences from the fact that your spouse has failed to disclose assets. In effect, you would be asking the court for a greater award on the basis that your spouse has sufficient assets and/or income to meet your proposal if a certain order is made. The starting point in all financial remedy proceedings is that each party bears their own costs. It is very rare that the courts depart from this rule, however, non-disclosure is one circumstance which may cause it to make an order that your spouse pay some of your legal costs.


  1. If you suspect that your spouse is being assisted by a family member or a business partner, for example, in hiding assets then it is possible to join that party into the proceedings or serve them with a witness summons to provide evidence at court and/or produce relevant documents to the dispute. If, however, a third party is joined to the proceedings and matters do not transpire as you anticipate, then it is important to bear in mind that you are at risk of a Judge making an order that you pay their legal costs.


  1. If there is a strong possibility that your spouse is likely to sell their business or a valuable asset and/or remove it from the jurisdiction, the court has the power to freeze its sale. A freezing injunction essentially allows you to preserve an asset so that the proceeds of sale are not dissipated before division of assets has been decided and a financial remedy order is made. This does of course require disclosure of the asset in the first place, however, if you have a strong suspicion of something such as this existing you should discuss whether a freezing injunction is appropriate with your solicitor.

Hand in hand with the question, what do you do if you suspect non-disclosure, is what you shouldn’t do. The Court of Appeal has made it clear; you cannot pry into your spouse’s private affairs and it follows therefore that they are entitled to retain their confidentiality and privacy. Any attempt to remove documents or information without your spouse’s permission is likely to be considered a breach of confidence which risks the imposition of civil or criminal sanctions. There are a number of other matters that must be considered in this regard therefore if you do have any concerns speak to your solicitor immediately.

If you would like help in determining whether any of the above actions are necessary in your case, please call Camilla Hooper on 01892 506 141 for a free telephone call to discuss your circumstances.

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