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Why the end date of a marriage can be important in some very specific cases.
In a highly unusual cases reported in the press recently, a wife lost out on £1.7 million in maintenance due to a technicality over when the parties’ marriage actually ended.
In this case, the couple married in 2012. The couple separated in 2013. The wife applied for divorce and the application got to the stage of decree nisi, but she never applied to make the decree nisi absolute and so the marriage never technically ended.
The parties reconciled in 2014 and stayed together until 2020, when the marriage actually ended.
The wife wanted at that point to rescind the decree nisi and to start afresh by making a new application to end the marriage from the point of the second separation in 2020. The husband however claimed that the parties never reconciled and that as such the original decree nisi should remain and that it should be made absolute.
Therefore the wife claimed that the marriage ended in 2020, whereas the husband claimed that it actually ended in 2013 following the wife’s original application to divorce.
So what was the point of spending in the region of £400,000 each in legal fees to argue what, on the face of it, is a seemingly small and insignificant point?
In short, money.
The parties, and the husband in particular, were wealthy and the parties’ union was subject to a prenuptial agreement, the terms of which were to be increasingly more generous to the wife dependant upon how long the parties had remained married.
Should the Judge, in this case the esteemed Judge Mr Justice Mostyn, agree with the wife, she would receive an additional £1.7 million pounds in housing capital on top of £2 million already in trust, a lump sum of £250,000 plus an additional £13,500 in spousal maintenance per annum which without it stood at £123,000.
This is why she applied to argue the point.
The Judge described the parties’ union as “highly defective” and he noted that there was no explanation as to why the wife had not applied for the decree nisi to be made absolute for some 12 months prior to the parties’ reconciliation in 2014.
Instead, the “toxic, damaging and unhealthy” relationship resumed, however, the Judge held that he was satisfied that at all times following the pronouncement of the decree nisi the marriage was and remained irretrievably broken.
He noted that there was also no application for a recission of the existing decree nisi at any time after 2014 which he would have expected to see had the parties genuinely reconciled. For these reasons he dismissed the wife’s application and he granted the husband’s application.
This is a highly unusual case with a very specific set of circumstances.
However, we can take away some points from the case that can be applied to everyday cases. For example, when deciding what to do in the event that somebody is contemplating divorce, it is wise to consider all factors that could affect the outcome of any financial settlement in divorce.
In this case, a prenuptial agreement dictated how much money the wife should have received upon divorce in capital and maintenance dependant upon the length of the marriage.
Whichever party is going to be affected by an existing document should be advised to think very carefully about how and when they time their departure from the marriage and of course, as in this case, should the parties reconcile, they should be advised to apply for rescission as quickly as possible.
Otherwise, as in this case, any undue delay could be – and in this case has been – extremely costly.
For further information and advice on this issue, and other family law issues, please contact us for a free initial consultation on 01992 306 616 or 0207 956 2740 or email us.Back to Law Articles