22 December, 2016
It is always nice to hear, when a Divorcing Couple can reach agreement between the two of them without any animosity or even having to involve Courts and Solicitors along the way. The advantages are clear. Both parties save legal fees, there is less acrimony and fallings out, and hopefully it will mean that both parties can progress for the rest of their lives on an amicable footing, particularly if they have children.
However there have been a couple of cases recently that have highlighted the difficulties in not dealing with the paperwork - as it were.
In a recently reported case, the Lambretta Millionaire has found himself being ordered to pay 2.7 million to his Wife, 10 years after they have separated.
Glenn Briers was working as a full time teacher when the sports and street wear company called Lambretta was started by him in 1988. He split with his Wife Nicola who was also a teacher in 2002 following 18 years of marriage and three children. At that time, the business was successful and turning over approximately a million pounds a year.
Since then of course the business has exploded and is now a recognised major fashion brand and has a turnover of up to 30 million.
When the parties separated, Mr Briers paid off the mortgage on the family home of approximately £150,000.00. The Wife now kept the mortgage free home which was worth approximately £700,000.00 and she was paid a £10,000.00 per year salary plus child maintenance. Crucially, Mr Briers kept the business.
He insisted that they had reached an agreement at that time that would represent a clean break and there would be no further monies to change hands.
Mrs Briers went to the Divorce Courts to ask for more, years later. A Judge found that she deserved a 2.7 million pound share of his approximate 10 million pound fortune.
Mr Briers is now asking the Court of Appeal to overturn this Order saying it is unfair on him.
Mrs Briers confirms that she did accept that money at the time, however she said that there was no agreement that that would constitute a full and final settlement. She said it wasn't discussed or negotiated but dictated by him and that he was a very dominant personality. She stated that she had a significant role in the start of the company and the fact was that this business was a matrimonial asset. Whilst her contribution to the business stopped when the parties separated, her contribution as primary carer of the children was very significant.
The Court of Appeal is yet to rule on Mr Brier's application. Unfortunately, it also appears that one of the reasons for trying to sort things out at an early stage, i.e. to save legal fees, can often come back and bite you. I anticipate that both Mr and Mrs Briers are now spending far in excess of what they would have done had they simply secured their agreement by way of a Consent Order following advice from expert family lawyers which could then have been sent to the Court and then approved by a District Judge. The most important part of the Consent Order is the phrase "this is in full and final settlement of any claim either of the parties have against each other".
The other recent case was that of Dale Vince and Kathleen Wyatt. In that case the Judge made an award 20 years after they divorced. Following Divorce and separation the Husband set up a very successful eco-friendly company and in that case the Judge awarded the Wife £30,000.00 plus her Divorce costs of approximately another £200,000.00 to be paid by the Husband. They too did not have a Consent Order at the time of their Divorce.
I always strongly advise my Clients, even if the separation is amicable, to ensure that any agreement reached is set down within a Consent Order as it protects both parties going forward so that this type of claim, years later, would not be possible.
For more information please contact Judith Wright by email or call 01772 220022.