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Making sure your final divorce agreement is final

The importance of making sure your financial affairs are fully resolved, and approved by a Court, when you divorce has been underlined by a recent case.

Glenn Briers and his wife Nicola married in 1984 but separated in 2002. A divorce decree was pronounced in 2004, but crucially, no financial agreement was ever signed or approved by the Court.

This enabled Mrs Briers to win a £2.7 million divorce settlement more than ten years later, despite her former husband claiming that the settlement at the time of the original divorce - he'd given her the family home, £150,000 to pay off the mortgage, a £10,000-a-year salary, plus child maintenance - was fair.

Background

The Court of Appeal heard that the couple were both teachers when they met and had three children before splitting up.

Mrs Briers had given up her career to focus on the family and, four years after they married, Mr Briers had founded a fashion business, initially from the garage.

By the time the Court heard the case, many years later, this business - including fashion brands Lambretta and Vision Streetwear - was turning over £30 million a year with Mr Briers' shares said to be worth £10 million.

Agreement never signed

Although both Mr and Mrs Briers agreed they thought they had reached an agreement in 2005, it was never signed, and Mrs Briers claimed it had been 'dictated' by Mr Briers and she had no idea of his true wealth at the time.

The Court of Appeal found that Mrs Briers 'agreement' was conditional on her husband providing a full and frank financial disclosure, something she had asked for several times. Without this there was no deal.

Implications

Although a Decree Absolute concludes a divorce, unless a financial Consent Order is signed by both parties and approved by a court there is always a risk that either party could apply for financial provision from the other, no matter how many years have passed (except when the applicant has re-married.)

That's why it's so important to use a specialist family lawyer to draw up a legally binding agreement approved by the Court to provide certainty and to make sure it cannot be challenged at a later date.

Wards Solicitors has an experienced team of eight family and divorce law specialist solicitors ready to help and 11 local offices for face to face meetings.