February 01, 2018
As many people will know, legal aid has been abolished for many family law matters and this, in turn, has led to a steep rise in ‘Litigants in Person - in other words people representing themselves in the family law courts.
A couple of recent case have caught my eye and I thought I would share these with you as, perhaps, they do highlight the need for legal advice.
The first involved a couple who had been married for over 20 years and had substantial assets. Following the divorce, the husband was ordered to pay the wife a considerable sum.
The husband now sought to alter the terms of a divorce financial settlement on the basis that his ex-wife was now living with another man (it is interesting to note that he represented himself at the hearing.)
The husband argued that that his ex-wife and new partner are effectively living as ‘husband and wife’ and, therefore, he should pay a lesser sum - in effect reducing his support for her.
The wife argued that she was anxious to remain financially independent and should not have to rely on her new partner.
The Court agreed with her, ruling that the new relationship did not negate the husband’s legal obligation to his former wife.
The second involved an ex-husband who has won the right from the Court of Appeal to challenge the validity of his ex-mother-in-law’s Will.
The case centred on the divorce settlement between the parties which included a provision that if the wife inherited more than £100,000 from her mother, any sum over the £100,000 be split equally between the husband and wife.
Following the mother’s death, the Will left £100,000 to the wife with the remainder (approx. £150,000) going to her grandchildren.
The husband launched a challenge to this, including alleging the Will had been forged in an attempt to get around the divorce settlement.
Initially he lost as he was found not to have sufficient interest in the estate to bring a claim.
On appeal, the wife argued that only those with the right to administer an estate could challenge a Will. As such, the husband was a ‘stranger to the estate’ as he did not have this right.
The Court of Appeal rejected the wife’s argument, commenting ‘justice in the general sense requires the husband to bring a probate claim’ and that ‘he is not a mere busybody. He has a real interest in challenging the validity of the Will.’
The matter will now be heard as a formal challenge and it will be interesting to see the outcome.
However, the ruling does potentially open the doors a little further for those who previously had no right to challenge Wills in the future.
If you would like advice regarding any of the issues in this article, do get in touch to make an appointment.