1 – The pronouncement of the Decree Absolute does not mean you have a financial clean break from your spouse
So, you’ve received the Decree Absolute – the final order of the divorce, which means your marriage has now been legally dissolved. However, before you start making plans for the future, be aware that even though you and your spouse are no longer married, this does not mean that you are no longer financially linked to your ex.
Until you have a legally binding order of the court resolving a financial agreement, then either of you could make a financial claim against the other in the future. So, if for example you win the lottery, receive an inheritance or if your spouse needs financial assistance from you, they can still come back many years after your separation or divorce and make such an application against you, if you do not have a ‘clean break’ financial order. There is no time limit placed on such an application even after the Decree Absolute.
2 – You do not necessarily have to ‘go to court’ to obtain a divorce
The divorce and financial agreement can be sent to the court by correspondence, to seek and obtain the approval of the court. This is possible if all matters can be agreed between you both. You and your ex may not need to step foot inside a court from the beginning to the end of the process. Court-free divorce is a reality for those couples who are able to communicate, Collaborate and/or Mediate.
3 – An agreement reached without the court’s approval is not legally binding
You and your spouse may have sat around the kitchen table and agreed everything between you in respect of the finances and property, even down to the last book, picture and set of cutlery. You may have written out the agreement between you in eloquent prose and both signed the document with witnesses. However, unless that agreement has been approved by the court (which is possible through correspondence) and therefore made legally binding, the finances are still unresolved and open for discussion. This is not a final agreement. Either of you may still make an application to the court to resolve the financial agreement if you later decide you are unhappy with the arrangement.
4 – Divorce doesn’t have to be expensive
The more you and your spouse can agree the way forward, the more money you will both save in legal costs. It is only when disagreements arise, which cannot be resolved between you both, that legal costs can escalate. If court proceedings are necessary additional costs will be incurred, for example court fees, legal fees and the costs if instructing a specialist barrister to represent you at any hearing. You are in control of half of what is needed to ensure a cost-effective divorce. Unfortunately the other half depends on your spouse, which may be less easy to predict. If you can still communicate, continue to do so. Seek professional advice on Collaborative practice and assisted negotiation.
5 – ‘Collaborative practice’ enables you to reach an agreement with your spouse, without the need for court proceedings
Reaching an agreement collaboratively means meeting with your Collaborative lawyer, your spouse and her Collaborative lawyer to try to reach an agreement, without going to court. The agreement reached Collaboratively can then be drafted by your solicitor and sent to the court for approval and made legally binding. This amicable and co-operative approach can help save long-term family relationships, preserve dignity and protect the children from the harmful side-effects of divorce. This can all be done by agreement, without the need for anyone to step foot inside a court, and with the minimum of distress and anxiety for both you and your spouse.
Katy Zikking is a specialist family solicitor at Harbour Family Law Solicitors. You can contact her by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 01179 055141 or 01275 741202. Katy is a trained Collaborative solicitor www.harbourfamilylaw.co.uk/methods
Katy has over 19 years experience of helping clients divorce – protecting their financial and emotional best interests.
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