Many divorce cases have come to light in the news this week particularly with parties re-opening cases due to financial settlements they felt were unfair.

I delved into the divorce process with solicitor Hannah Field to understand exactly how the process works.
Hannah explained that divorce rests on a fault-based system and relies on 5 facts. On these following grounds, one can file for a divorce:
• Unreasonable behaviour
• Adultery
• Two years separation and consent to divorce from both parties
• Five years separation and no consent to divorce from both parties
• Desertion

Having to wait either two or five years can be a substantial amount of time, especially taking into consideration you may want a divorce on the grounds of domestic abuse. So, generally divorce claims are made on the basis of ‘unreasonable behaviour’.
This is extremely subjective and based on what you believe is unreasonable behaviour such as a partner not being financially or emotionally supportive, to not helping with household chores. You need approximately six grounds on which to make your claim and need to write these grounds in a petition letter. There is no court hearing for such cases.

If one party files for a divorce but the other party does not consent, they can petition against the divorce but this can be expensive. A lot of the time, Hannah explained, people do not want the allegations against them by the divorce claimant to stand against them once the divorce has gone through, but the reasons for the divorce do not stand against you afterwards.

In the news this week, two women went to the Supreme Court to re-open their divorce cases, claiming their ex-husbands had hidden their true assets and wealth and therefore received a disproportionate, unfair amount in the settlement.

Hannah stated that when you get divorced, you have to make a separate allegation for finances. Sometimes people deal with the finances within the family so that it is dealt with outside of court, usually to save the family from ‘shame’ from having to tell a third party.

A divorce has to go through the court to have legal weight but finances do not have to go through the courts.
In the case in the news about the two women, there was not enough financial disclosure and the Supreme Court is deciding on the case. Most people do not decide on whether they want a divorce overnight, and is something they consider for a substantial amount of time, so may begin to hide and protect their assets. So it can be difficult to find out one party’s true wealth.

I read that forensics teams can be hired through lawyers to find out the worth of a partner or ex-partner! Hannah confirmed there are companies that can do this, but the court will have to decide whether it is dis-closable evidence in court and has not been distorted.

There is a standard procedure, however, when it comes to finances and divorce which takes place with a solicitor. Certain assets must be disclosed including:
• Bank statements
• Property(s)
• Stocks and shares
• Investments
• Pensions
On the note of pensions, I wanted to dive into divorce and pensions especially now that there are new pension freedoms. How do the new pension freedoms impact those over the age of 55 and going through a divorce?
Hannah explained that the new pension freedoms mean you can take 100% of your pension, at a taxable rate, so those over the age of 55 should put a protection in place.

If going through divorce proceedings, you can ask the other party to promise not to touch the pension. You can also take emergency action and freeze the pension. You will have to do this through a lawyer.
Another case in the news showed that a woman re-opened her case for financial entitlements after 20 years of divorcing her ex-husband. With all of these people coming forward and re-opening their divorce cases and claiming for more financially, I wanted to know if this will instigate more people coming forward and opening their claims many years later?!

According to Hannah, it could have an impact on others’ cases but in the case of the 20-year divorcees, the court will probably look at whether the claimants needs are being met, and if so she probably will not receive a substantial amount. If she does receive a good amount from her ex-husband, it could encourage others to come forward and re-open cases.

To prevent this from happening, Hannah advised dismissing all your claims so that an ex-partner is unable to reopen the case.

When it comes to divorce and pensions, there is such a thing as the ‘Equality of Outcome’. This is where it is ensured both have the same income going forward.

One of the reasons people may file for a divorce is because they are experiencing domestic abuse or violence. There is Legal Aid available to those being domestically abused and you can get an injunction. You do need clear evidence such as a police report or medical note from your GP as evidence.

Another reason somebody may want a divorce is because they have been forced into a marriage. Forced marriages, Hannah explained, are treated similarly to domestic violence cases but the process is different.

A forced marriage is a marriage against someone’s will and therefore they are in a vulnerable position both mentally and emotionally, and sometimes physically. There is a strict process and procedure to embark on with cases such as this, and you would need to seek specialist advice. This is something I brought to light after new forced marriage laws came into place in the UK and a man was convicted for the first time ever in the UK.

On the note of marriage, Hannah and I also talked about pre-nups. Hannah described a pre-nup as an insurance to protect you as far as possible in the future. It is not legally binding in the UK but is given heavy weighting.
You do have to follow a certain criteria when getting a pre-nup:
• There must be full financial disclosure from both parties
• Both parties should not be under duress
• The pre-nup application should be made at least 21 days before the marriage

Sometimes couples are under pressure from their families to get a pre-nup because one party may be due to receive a large inheritance, in which case a pre-nup is understandable.

It is also advisable to get a pre-nup if you are entering a second marriage and had a messy divorce the first time around. This protects you the second time around and gives you piece of mind.

When they are getting married, everybody thinks and hopes it is for life. So many may not like the idea of a pre-nup as it can be seen as slightly negative! Hannah stated, however, that the longer a marriage lasts, the more intermingled finances get. So if a divorce does end up happening, it makes it trickier to define assets. Having separate bank accounts could be an option but once again, assets and money tends to become intermingled the longer you are with and live with somebody.

We also touched on sham marriages which Hannah explained are difficult. If somebody has come on a visa and has remained with their partner until they have Indefinite Leave to Remain, and then leaves the partner at this point, it can be difficult to track them down. Consequently, it is difficult to file for a divorce and make any financial allegations.

To end the show, I asked Hannah for some advice when it came to marriage and divorce and coming forward about issues surrounding these topics. I know that speaking about such issues can be sensitive and many do not want to come forward.

Hannah explained that you should never feel ashamed or that you will be judged. Usually a solicitor or lawyer is the first point of call so you should feel like you can come and be honest. It will be difficult but ultimately it will be the right decision.