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Clean Break - What is it? Do I need one? Why is it important?

There has been a lot of coverage in the news recently regarding divorcees coming back after several years of divorce to make financial claims against their ex-husband or wife. You may be familiar with the case of Dale Vince and his ex-wife Kathleen Wyatt. If not, do have a read! 

The reality is that the majority of these cases could have been avoided had a Clean Break Order been obtained.

What is a Clean Break?

A Clean Break refers to the paragraph or ‘clause’ within an Order from the Court dealing with the financial claims that wives and husbands have against each other. The Clean Break severs any financial ties between the husband and wife. The vast majority of people mistakenly believe that the Divorce or Decree Absolute prevents their former spouse from making a financial claim against their assets in the future. This is not the case. 

Whilst the Decree Absolute legally ends the marriage, without a Clean Break, either the husband or the wife would be entitled to return, at any point in the future, to make a claim against the other’s assets, property, income or pensions.

Do I Need One and Why Is It Important?

The short answer is yes!

Without a Clean Break Order you are exposing yourself to a claim from your former spouse. The issue at the moment appears to be where divorcing couples reach an amicable agreement and assume that this will be sufficient to ensure no further claims can be made. Even if they incorporate this agreement into a written agreement, signed by both parties (Separation Agreement) there is still the possibility that either party could return in the future to make a claim against the other’s property.
To give you a real example of why a Clean Break is important, there was a case in 2010 when a gentleman had to pay his ex-wife £2,000,000 from his lottery winnings, despite the fact that they divorced 10 years earlier when she had left him for another man. This was because when they divorced they did not have a lot of money and decided to forego getting a Clean Break Financial Order as part of their divorce. She was able to make a claim against his lottery winnings and ultimately received an out-of-court settlement for £2,000,000. A simple Clean Break Order will protect assets you own in the future, as well as assets you retain after the marriage.

If you are looking to achieve a Clean Break, want some advice on whether you have a Clean Break already or need help with financial arrangements on divorce, please contact one of our Family Law experts on 01295 270999 (Banbury Office) 01869 252 161 (Bicester Office) 01788 579 579 (Rugby Office).