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Divorce questions

including wills and probate
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Divorce questions


Postby staffordian » February 10th, 2019, 11:23 pm

I am trying to assist a friend who needs some pointers following the collapse of his marriage.

In a nutshell...

He met a girl in 2015. They were engaged in August 2016 and married in July 2018. But in October 2018 after just three months of marriage, out of the blue, she left him, saying she had made a mistake tying herself down. (She is 22 and he is in his thirties, if relevant). Within a few weeks she rented a flat jointly with a male colleague with whom she now works. Not sure if there is a relationship there or just a friendship.

Regarding the finances, my friend has a reasonably well paid job, has owned a house for about five years (bought well before meeting wife) with a mortgage outstanding. During the marriage (and before the marriage, when she lived with him) he paid all the bills, including the mortgage, whilst she tended to pay for the food etc. But during her time with him she was out of work on several occasions, during which periods my friend paid everything, including her spending money, mobile etc. He does have debts of well into five figures, being paid via a debt management plan arranged via Step Change. She works for an agency, in a call centre, probably minimum wage or thereabouts.

The split is, thus far, amicable. She has said she wants nothing from him.

He has several worries but seems reluctant to get proper advice, probably for fear of prematurely opening a can of worms.

Divorce cannot be contemplated until they have been married a year, but presumably it can be ended reasonably easily if she admits adultery; otherwise they will, I believe need two years separation – is this from date she leaves, or does the clock start at the point when divorce can be started; i.e. after twelve months of marriage?

Is there anything he should, or indeed can do to start anything legal, either towards the divorce or to settle the financial side of it?
Another worry he has about seeing a solicitor now to try to pin down a financial agreement is that he knows that she will have to have her own solicitor, and he thinks her solicitor is likely to advise her against taking nothing.

I have read that short marriages are often dealt with differently to those of longer duration when it comes to dividing assets, but how rigid is this?
Given the circumstances, he hopes she will be true to her word, and feels her having anything would not be morally right given her behaviour, but he knows that as far as the law is concerned, that means little or nothing.

Sorry for the ramble, but in summary, I guess the main questions are:

1. should he do anything now

2. what is the most likely ultimate outcome?

I think I am too close to be objective, so would be grateful for any thoughts. Happy to clarify anything further if necessary.

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Re: Divorce questions


Postby pochisoldi » February 11th, 2019, 11:19 am

I would start by forgetting about divorce and start looking at anullment.

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Re: Divorce questions


Postby staffordian » February 11th, 2019, 11:40 am

pochisoldi wrote:I would start by forgetting about divorce and start looking at anullment.

An interesting thought, but as far as I can see, it was not an illegal marriage, so the only grounds, as per the gov website are:

Your marriage is defective - ‘voidable’ marriages
You can annul a marriage for a number of reasons, such as:

it was not consummated - you have not had sex with the person you married since the wedding (does not apply for same sex couples)
you did not properly consent to the marriage - for example you were drunk or forced into it
the other person had a sexually transmitted disease when you got married
the woman was pregnant by another man when you got married

Points 2,3 and 4 don't apply, and I've not asked, but would assume he would have to lie about the first point, which is not wise.

Unless there are subtleties I'm missing?

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Re: Divorce questions


Postby Clitheroekid » February 12th, 2019, 10:41 pm

The first thing to say is that a period of cohabitation prior to the marriage will usually be added to the length of the marriage itself when assessing finances. However, in this case even adding that to the three months results in a very short `marriage'.

A `short marriage' is usually considered by the courts to be one of less than five years. Where there are no children, the courts will generally decide that a 50/50 split of all assets accrued during the relationship to be appropriate.

However, if assets were owned by just one of them before the marriage they are likely to be retained by the original owner, so if a couple (as here) moves into a house owned by the husband before the marriage, the court would probably consider it unreasonable to give her a share in it.

In these situations the basic aim of the court is just to restore them both to the financial situation they were in before the marriage, with no significant transfer of assets either way, and no ongoing provision by way of maintenance for either party. This is known as a clean break settlement, but I and all other lawyers would highly recommend that there should be a court order recording this (known as a `consent order') so as to ensure neither party can make a claim at a later stage if one of them suddenly acquires a lot of money.

Although neither party can apply for a divorce until a year's expired there's nothing to stop them entering into a separation agreement at this stage recording that neither will make any claim against the other. Such agreements are legally binding on both parties, though in extreme circumstances - for example if there had been duress or fraud - the divorce court has the power to override them.

So far as the divorce itself is concerned the easiest solution is for one of them to admit adultery. There's no need to name the co-respondent - in fact it's now actively discouraged - and it will then go through without any problem.

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Re: Divorce questions


Postby staffordian » February 13th, 2019, 9:25 am

Very many thanks for your response CK, I'll pass that on. I'd told him to look into separation orders as others had suggested this but he thought they were not legally binding. Reassuring to know they essentially are.


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