Divorce is a means to an end

Divorce is a means to an end

Its all about the timing…….

Divorce is a means to an end.   There is no reward in being the one to issue, no greater financial pay out. Its always a sad time and whilst there may be a fleeting feeling of ‘one-up-manship’ in the great scheme of things,  it makes little moral difference who is the petitioner and who is the respondent. 

From a practical point of view however, there can be an advantage in that s/he who issues the petition has control of the timingof applications for the provisional decree of divorce: the decree nisi and then the final decree: the decree absolute.

Is this important?  Well, it could be.  Right up to the point of declaration of the decree absolute, you are still, technically, married.  This married status means that you have the benefits being married brings with it: the most valuable are usually  spouses rights under a pension, the right to inherit in the event of death  and what could be vital to your case, the right not to have your home sold from under you if the house is in the sole name of your spouse. 

Matrimonial Homes Rightsare what a spouse has when s/he is not named as the owner of their home in the Property Register kept at the Land registry. The rights can be registered against the property as a ‘restriction’ by lodging a Matrimonial Homes Right notice and once registered, the owning spouse cannot ‘deal’ with the property ie mortgage or sell it, without the  non-owning spouse being given notice.  This right ends upon the decree absolute being presented to the Land Registry who will then cancel the restriction.    So, if you want your Matrimonial Homes Rights to last a bit longer, you might want to postpone your application for the decree absolute until financial matters have been resolved.    You can apply to extend your Home Rights beyond decree absolute but this has to be the subject of a specific application to the Family Court and the request may not be granted just for the asking if your spouse objects.

If your spouse dies before the divorce is completeand you were named as a beneficiary under his/her Will, you would still inherit.  Equally, if there was no Will, as a spouse, you would also inherit under the intestacy rules.  If there are any assets that you & your spouse own jointly that haven’t yet been split satisfactorily under any divorce settlement, these would be inherited by the surviving spouse, so you might do better financially as a spouse than as an ex-spouse!    As with any aspect of law, there are always exceptions…..

Pensions are always a minefieldbut essentially, you might want to ensure that you don’t apply for the decree absolute until at least 28 days after any pension sharing order is made as the order only comes into effect on the later of the granting of the decree absolute or 28 days after the making of the pension sharing order.  So, if the decree absolute is granted and your spouse dies within 28 days of the order then there is a chance that the pension sharing order will fail. This is because the pension fund with have terminated on the member’s death before the pension sharing order came into effect. In addition, as the marriage has been formally ended by the decree absolute, the surviving ex-spouse would not be entitled to any spousal benefits under the pension, for example, a widow/widower’s pension. You would be left with no provision whatsoever.    So if you have a pension sharing order, you would be well-advised to wait at least 28 days from the date of the order before making the application for decree absolute – just in case. There can then be no chance of being left without both the pension share and spousal benefits under the pension itself.

So patience could be a very economical virtue………

Susan Devereaux, Solicitor


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Wills during COVID-19

Wills during COVID-19

COVID19 – Will signings

Our Private Client team have had a significant number of queries from our clients in relation to having their Wills signed and witnessed. We have therefore prepared a quick-fire question and answer that should hopefully alleviate any concerns about having your Will completed.

Of course, any questions or queries that you may have, please do not hesitate to contact our Private Client team on 01206 577676 or email [email protected].

The team continue to work as normal, albeit remotely and are able to assist you at this very unfamiliar time.

“Despite being in lockdown, I’d like to make changes to my current Will. Can I still amend my Will?”

Yes. Our team are able to assist you in amending your Will.

If anyone is considering creating a new Will or would like to make changes to their current Will, then please do not be put off this unfamiliar time, we are able to offer telephone and video appointments instead of face-to-face. Please see further below in how to have your Will completed.

“My Will is ready to sign, who can be my witnesses?”

Your two witnesses must be independent to the testator. We advise these not to be members of your family, particularly if they are beneficiaries within the Will, they cannot act as your witnesses. If you have neighbours or local friends that could help, then that would be ideal.

“How can we get the Will signed due to social distancing?”

It is important to stick to the social distancing guidelines when signing your Will and to ensure that you keep a safe distance apart, if possible, the Will can be signed outside to ensure everyone is adhering to the guidelines.

“I am self-isolating; can my witnesses stand outside my window and watch me sign the Will?”

The important part here is that your witnesses must watch you sign your Will. They do not need to know the contents of the Will, but they must see your Will and see you sign it.

It is then possible to pass the Will to your witnesses through the window or your letter box. Ensure the Will is placed within an envelope when passing between you. As you are self-isolating, it might be sensible for all parties to wear gloves and use your own individual pens so as to minimise contact with any documents.

“I am unable to find any witnesses!”

If this is the case, then please contact your fee earner within our private client team who will be able to discuss this with you further.

“My Will has now been signed and witnessed, what do I need to do now?”

If you are able to, then please return this to the office so that we can check everything is in order and we will store your Will within our secure storage facility. If you are self-isolating, your Will needs to be stored in a safe and secure place until it is safe for you to return the Will to us. It is very important you notify us that the Will has been completed in the meantime.

If you would like any advice from our Private Client department

Contact GoodyBurrett on 01206 577676 or email [email protected]

Colchester and Ipswich Hospitals Charity

Colchester and Ipswich Hospitals Charity

At the beginning of February, Louise Repper and Georgina Leighton from our Private Client team met with Penny Norris, Corporate and Trust Manager of the Colchester & Ipswich Hospitals Charity and was fortunate to receive a tour of the new Collingwood Centre.

The Collingwood Centre opened at Colchester Hospital in November 2019, replacing the Mary Barron Suite and Haematology Day Unit.

After 5 years of fundraising a total of £3.25 million including a million pounds contributed by an anonymous donor, the Collingwood Centre now brings together radiotherapy, chemotherapy and haematology under one roof for the first time at Colchester Hospital.

On their tour, Louise and Georgina noticed how much more modern and welcoming the centre was and Penny advised them that this new environment would aim to provide a significantly better experience for the hospital’s patients, their families and carers.

The Cancer Wellbeing Centre has also been opened and provides counselling, support services and holistic therapies alongside the Collingwood Centre.

In previous years we have been one of the selected participating solicitors to take part in ‘Make a Will Month’ for Colchester and Ipswich Hospitals Charity. Instead of participants paying our fees, our Private Client department would give up our time and instead, our clients would donate to the charity.

In 2019, along with another local firm, we raised donations in excess of £2,600.

Helen Firth, Solicitor, who ran the scheme here at GoodyBurrett says “We are extremely proud and privileged to have been a part of the fundraising for the hospital. It has been incredible to see the Collingwood Centre open and to know that our firm has not only helped Colchester hospital but also our local community. Make a Will Month has been extremely successful over the years and we thank our clients for being so willing to participate in our fundraising. We’re looking forward to see what the future brings with regards to our continued fundraising efforts for the Colchester and Ipswich Hospitals Charity”.

If you would like any advice from our Private Client department

Contact GoodyBurrett on 01206 577676 or email [email protected]