Ask an expert: 'I'm not the bread winner but want a divorce, how can I protect myself?'


My husband of 35 years has recently retired. His retirement and the Covid pandemic have resulted in us spending far more time together than usual. This has badly affected our relationship.

I am worried that we might be headed for a divorce. My husband has always worked whereas I stopped paid work when we had our children – 32 years ago. Is there anything I can do to protect myself financially?

Anon, via email

Caroline Holley, partner at law firm Farrer and Co, says:

I am sorry that you are facing this difficult situation. You are not alone; many couples have found that the past year has put a huge amount of pressure on their relationships.

While it does not sound as if you are certain about the future of your relationship (and I would certainly recommend counselling as a way of improving things), I can understand that it might help you to feel more at ease if you understand a little more about the financial impact of a potential divorce, and what you can do now to protect yourself.

It will reassure you to know how the courts tend to approach cases such as yours. The law treats marriage as a partnership. It does not discriminate between the “breadwinner” and the “home-maker”. This means that if you do divorce, and you need to divide your assets, the starting point will be that everything built up during your marriage should be divided equally.

The first thing that I would suggest is to take some time to make sure you have a good understanding of the family finances – both what you have, and what you spend. This will make it much easier if you need to take legal advice in the future, but more importantly it will equip you with the information you need should you need to make decisions about your financial future.

If you do decide to divorce, you will need advice from a specialist family solicitor. It can help to have discussions about the future with your spouse, but do not be tempted to enter into any financial agreement without taking legal advice and ensuring that you have a good understanding of what you are entitled to.

If you do take advice, it needs to be from someone you feel comfortable with, and confident in. It is worth spending some time to find the right person.

Check that the solicitor you contact is a member of Resolution. Resolution is a national organisation of family lawyers whose members follow a Code of Practice that promotes the constructive resolution of family disputes.

Finally, if you do decide to go your separate ways, you will need to remember to change your Will, or to make a Will if you do not already have one. If you have already carried out any joint estate planning, you will need to take advice on what impact your divorce will have and whether any further action should be taken.


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    Tuesday, May 11, 2021