Over the past 50 years, there has been a significant amount of evidence showcasing societal changes. One notable change is the increase in couples choosing to cohabit rather than getting married, which was once stigmatised in the early 1970s.

Furthermore, the number of marriages ending in divorce has risen considerably over the years. In 1973, one-third of couples who got married had their marriages end in divorce before reaching their silver wedding anniversary. In contrast, data from the Office for National Statistics reveals that one-fifth of couples who married in 2010 were divorced within a decade.

Given the frequency at which marriages end in divorce, one would expect people to approach marriage more practically and consider the possibility of it ending prematurely. However, data from the Ministry of Justice suggests that this is not necessarily the case. Despite a significant number of divorces in 2021, only a fraction of couples sought financial remedy orders to determine the division of their assets.

Financial remedy orders are crucial in legally separating couples and ensuring a fair distribution of finances. Even if couples can agree on the division themselves, the family court must still approve the agreement for it to be binding. However, many couples choose not to pursue these orders, potentially leaving them vulnerable to future financial claims from their ex-spouses.

The process of obtaining a divorce and finalizing financial matters takes time, even with the introduction of ‘no-fault’ divorce. Recent data shows that divorces concluded between January and March of this year took an average of 64 weeks from the initial application to the final order, an increase from the previous year.

It is important to note that divorce and financial remedy orders are governed by different legislation, resulting in a lack of synchronization in the data. Nevertheless, many individuals may be separating without obtaining a financial remedy order, which family lawyers view as concerning. These orders serve as a ‘financial full-stop,’ preventing one party from making future claims on the other for support.

Even if couples believe they do not have sufficient assets to merit a financial remedy order, it is crucial to consider the potential for future changes in circumstances. Whether through a successful business venture, inheritance, or winning the lottery, ex-spouses can still demand a share of these newfound assets.

Real-life cases such as Wyatt v Vince (2015) UKSC 14, in which Kathleen Wyatt successfully claimed against her ex-husband nearly 20 years after their divorce, highlight the importance of financial remedy orders. Wyatt received a substantial settlement after her ex-husband became a multi-millionaire through his business ventures. To read the Supreme Court judgment in this case, click here.

It is unlikely that a change in the law regarding financial settlements on divorce would eliminate the potential for such claims. Therefore, the solution lies in educating couples about the financial implications of marriage and cohabitation. Just as pre-nuptial agreements have become more common across various demographics, financial remedy orders should not be limited to the wealthy.

Family courts have the authority to make substantive orders regarding property, cash, pensions, and maintenance. Undertakings can also cover various agreements, such as life insurance payments or specific expenses related to children. It is advisable to include any important matters in a financial remedy order to ensure a comprehensive settlement.

Even individuals with limited financial resources at the time of separation should consider obtaining a financial remedy order. None of us can predict the future and failing to secure such an order can lead to unexpected and costly shocks when least expected. It is essential to definitively move on with life and avoid potential financial hardships down the line.

Contact our Family Team at Vyman

Zharna Sutaria is the Head of the Family department, if you have any questions about divorce, finance or pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreements, why not her a call at Vyman Solicitors on 020 3927 7779 or email zharna.sutaria@vyman.co.uk

The content of this article has been prepared for informational purposes only. This content does not constitute legal advice, nor does it give rise to a solicitor/client relationship. Specialist legal advice should be taken in relation to specific circumstances.