The recent case of Briers v Briers [2017] EWCA Civ 15 concerned a woman who was successful in obtaining a share of the wealth her former husband had accrued after their divorce.

Although the couple had been divorced for many years and agreed an informal settlement at the time, no financial consent order or other formal and legally binding agreement or court order was obtained at the time. This then meant that Mrs Briers could apply to the Family Court for a financial order some 10 years after the divorce was finalised.

The detail

The two parties married in 1984, separated in 2002 and received a decree absolute in 2005. There were no formal orders regarding financial arrangements.

As such, in 2013, the ex-wife made an application for a financial remedy order. The ex-husband argued that agreement concerning financial arrangements had already been reached in 2005.

However, during an earlier hearing a judge ruled that this earlier arrangement did not constitute a full and final agreement and that the ex-wife had not received full disclosure of her ex-husband's financial status. The Court of Appeal upheld this earlier view, stating that any deal was always going to be conditional on full disclosure of the husband's financial affairs.

Issues of delay

The ex-husband's family lawyer attempted to argue that the ex-wife's delay in mounting a claim had in some way invalidated her right to an order.

However, the judge ruled that delay should not exclude the possibility of the sharing of non-matrimonial and post-separation wealth. Instead, it was ruled, every case should be looked at independently, with full referral to the facts.

As such, the Court of Appeal dismissed the ex-husband's arguments and ruled in favour of the ex-wife.

Final thoughts

This case, and another recent ruling on Wyatt v Vince [2016], in which the former wife was also successful in securing a lump sum from the former husband who had built up a successful business years after their divorce was 19 years earlier, highlights the need for divorcing couples to ensure that once they divorce consent orders should be sought at the soonest opportunity in order to reduce the scope for future financial claims.

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