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Reaching a legal agreement after divorce: time is of the essence

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Delay need not mean that your ex-spouse cannot bring a claim against you in respect of the finances of the marriage.

The Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by a husband in which he claimed, amongst other matters, that the trial judge had failed to have sufficient regard to the wife's delay in bringing the claim.

The couple had married in 1984 and separated in 2002. The husband was working full-time as a teacher when he started up his sports and streetwear empire with just £81 of his own money.

By the time he separated from his wife in 2002, after 18 years of marriage and three children, the business was turning over £1 million a year. It has since grown into a major fashion chain, turning over up to £30 million.

The parties divorced in 2005, but there were no orders made concluding the parties' financial affairs.    The husband says they made a "verbal agreement" at the time that the "settlement" would represent a final settlement between them.  The wife received £150,000 to pay off the mortgage and retained the £700,000 family home.  The husband kept the business.

In 2013, the wife issued an application at the family courts for a financial remedy order and on 6 May 2015, a family court judge found that there had not been a previous full and final settlement and that there was no 2005 agreement. The judge ordered that the ex-wife should receive £2.7 million.   The husband appealed. The Court of Appeal approved the judge's approach and his treatment of delay and the appeal was dismissed.

Do not delay if you have divorced but have not reached a proper and final agreement in relation to the assets of the marriage, the terms of which have been embodied in a court order. 

If you would like any further advice regarding this, or any other, family law issue please contact Liz Graham, Head of the Family Department, via liz.graham@chattertons.com or call 01476 512603.

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