There are many married couples who have separated but do not wish to pursue the 'divorce' route, mainly due to the formalities, time and costs of the process. However, a recent case before the court, shows exactly why it can be financially dangerous to not formally end the marriage. This will also be the case for parties who have cohabited instead of getting married which is becoming more and more common.
There has been a significant decline in the number of divorces. Recent stats from the National Office of Statistics show that divorce rates fell by 9% in 2015. This is linked to the number of cohabitees and also people who do not wish to to go down the legal route of ending their marriage.
It is a well known fact that divorce can be expensive however the consequences of not doing it properly at the right time could have far more costly implications. The case which has brought this to light is that of a couple who were married in 1989. The marriage barely lasted a month and the couple separated and became estranged. Neither of them instigated divorce proceedings or discussed any financial settlement. 30 years later, the wife has discovered that the husband died in 2011 and a Judge has ruled that as they were still married when the husband died, the wife could indeed have a claim on his estate.
This of course could have devastating effects to the husband's new family if he was in a new relationship and if he had children.
It does highlight however the importance of ensuring there is a legally binding arrangement in place to prevent scenarios like this occurring.
Particularly, home rights are an overlooked legality which can only be sorted through divorce or other court order. There is also the risk of post separation wealth in that if one party significantly diminishes their wealth post separation, when the parties decide to formally begin divorce proceedings, the other party may be ordered to assist them in rebuilding their finances by way of maintenance or lump sum. A particularity scary concept!
If divorce does seem too final there are other options such as Judicial Separation however it is crucial that legal advice is sought on separation to avoid any problems in the future.
While divorce will for most people trigger enormous emotional and financial stress, separating without the formality of divorce can also be financially disastrous. This was highlighted in a recent case concerning a couple married for only three weeks and separated for almost 30 years afterwards. Litigation is ongoing. The marriage lasted barely a month in 1989. They then split and became estranged. The husband died in 2011 - something the wife discovered only last year when she hired investigators - and a dispute has resulted over her claim to some of the estate. A judge ruled that as they were still married when the husband died she could indeed have a claim. Lawyers say the case highlights one of many dangers financial dangers of an informal separation.