Dundee Family Lawyer

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Why You Should Formally End Your Marriage With Divorce

A recent case has demonstrated why separating couples should consider formally ending their relationship with divorce.

Joy Williams, aged 69, had lived with Norman Martin for over 18 years when he died of a heart attack in 2012. The couple owned a house together as tenants in common, and this property was valued at around £320,000.

Although Mr Martin lived with Ms Williams, he remained married to his wife. This meant that when he died, his share of the house passed to his wife. There was no cohabitation agreement in place, and Mr Martin’s will had not been updated.
Ms Williams took her case to court to make a claim on her deceased partner’s estate.

The judge acknowledged the “loving and committed” relationship the couple shared and ruled that Ms Williams should be able to inherit Mr Martin’s share of the house. Mr Martin’s widow was ordered to pay £100,000 in legal fees within 42 days. Her lawyer described the costs as “eye-watering” and said that his client could not afford this.

After leaving the court, Ms Williams said: “All I wanted was for the court to recognise that I needed to have his share of the house that was our home to provide me with some security for my future and this judgment has done just that.
“I hope my situation raises awareness for others to consider their own financial position in relation to their partner and consider whether they need to take advice to protect their each other in future.”

Divorce Now Rather Than Later

When married couples separate, they tend to start with one partner moving out of the house. They may come an arrangement about the everyday aspects of separation through a formal separation agreement (also called a Minute of Agreement) or through an informal agreement they arrive at between themselves.

As time goes by, they may find new partners and live completely separate lives. Many couples intend to get divorced but never get around to it. There may seem no urgent and pressing need to officially end their relationship with divorce.
However, many couples have found that separating and not divorcing can cause problems further along the line.

The case of Mr Martin and Ms Williams has demonstrated how in the event a married person dies, the estate will pass to their spouse and family. If a couple have been separated for a long time, they may have new partners who they would want to benefit from their estate.

Going to court to make a claim upon your cohabitant partner’s estate can incur expensive legal fees, and there is no guarantee you will be successful in your claim. Writing a will can also help to avoid this situation.

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