How can I protect my financial assets after divorce?

While many people are under the impression that once divorced, an ex-partner holds no rights to access their money, the reality is that unless a legally binding financial order is made, these financial ties continue long after divorce.

Currently there is no time limit for ex-spouses to apply to the court for a financial settlement after divorce. This means that without legally watertight measures in place, divorcees are at risk of their former spouse making a financial claim against them, even decades after the marriage is dissolved.

Here family law expert David Connor explores what separating couples can do to protect their financial assets on divorce.

The Wyatt v Vince case

A case which involves a decision by the Supreme Court allowing a financial appeal to go through 34 years after the dissolution of marriage, demonstrates the harsh reality of such claims.

Although Mr Vince set up his green energy business Ecotricity and made his fortune after he divorced from Wyatt in 1992, the couple’s child continued to live with Wyatt with little financial assistance from Vince. The decision means that Ms Wyatt could potentially bag up to £1m, however she will be unlikely to succeed in her claim in excess of this amount.

This appeal was successfully processed by the courts because at the time of divorce, no orders relating to the couples finances were made, therefore under law Vince still holds a financial obligation to his ex-wife.

The Wyatt v Vince case highlights that unless there is an order or enforceable agreement in place, there is no time limit in making a financial claim after a divorce has been finalised.

How to protect your financial assets

The best way for separating couples to prevent any financial claims being raised after the divorce has been finalised is to seek a clean break order. Unless a clean break order is put in place upon divorce, individuals are at risk of their former spouse making a financial claim against them later on in life.

Separating couples can obtain an order from the court at the time of divorce, agreeing that there will be no further financial claims made against each other. Only once this order has been finalised, will a former couples’ financial ties be unbound.

For a clean break order to be processed, a document separate from the standard divorce needs to be agreed, drafted and lodged with the court before being approved by a judge.

While many couples are resorting to online divorces as a cheap and quick alternative to going through an accredited family law solicitor, this method does not address the complexities surrounding each individual case.

Cheaper options which are often unregulated online packages present significant risks when it comes to being open to financial claims in the future, as many of these packages are not designed to cope with the multi-layered approach needed in most family law cases. Only an experienced family law solicitor can provide this service.

While DIY divorce packages may seem a very simple and cheap way to proceed with the divorce itself, those who take the DIY route risk trying to resolve financial claims later on down the line, which is far more complicated and costly.

It has never been more important to seek specialist advice about financial orders on divorce.

See also David’s post: What happens to assets acquired after separation but before divorce?

Specialising in all areas of family law, David represents individuals seeking to resolve family law matters either by agreement or, where necessary, through court proceedings. For further advice on financial settlements in divorce, contact David Connor on 01706 225621 or