I want to leave my spouse, but all the money is in their name – What can I do?
Coming to the decision that your marriage is at an end is never easy, but it can be even more concerning if your spouse is the financially stronger party. Worries about being “cut-off” or forced out of the house can lead many to feel they are trapped. There are steps you can take to protect yourself in these circumstances, but it is important to take early advice to ensure you understand the position.
First Steps - The family home
If the family home is in the sole name of your spouse, it is easy to worry that on separation you will be forced out without protection. However, by virtue of your marriage you are entitled to occupy the family home unless there is a restriction from the Court or Police. You can register your right to occupy the property with the Land Registry, known as a Home Rights Notice. This puts notice on the title of your right to occupy, protecting not only your ability to live in the property but also preventing your spouse seeking to sell or transfer this without your knowledge.
The Court’s Approach
When deciding on a financial settlement following a divorce, the Court has very wide powers to deal with all assets of the marriage. This can include any and all assets in the names of either of the parties to the marriage. Therefore even if all the assets are in your spouses name, the Court can consider these as part of the matrimonial ‘pot’ for distribution as they think fit. The Court considers various contributions to a marriage, not all of which are financial, and so even if you haven’t contributed by way of money to the marriage the Court can still consider you have made equal contribution in other ways, such as care of the household or children. In ensuring a fair outcome, the Court will require that each parties needs are met, and especially the needs of any children of the marriage.
Costs of Living
When separating from your spouse, it can be concerning if you do not have an income to live on, especially if they wish to live in separate households. Where one party to the marriage does not have an income, it is likely that there will need to be an award of maintenance to ensure that they are able to meet their basic needs such as food and housing. This does not have to wait until a final order and if your spouse is unwilling to provide you with suitable monthly payments to meet your needs then the Court can award an ‘interim’ amount to ensure your needs are met whilst the finances are resolved.
Disposing of Assets
If you have reason to believe that your spouse is going to dispose of assets to try to ‘hide’ the money from you and the Court, then you need to seek immediate legal advice. An application can be made to the Court to prevent your spouse disposing of specific assets and accounts can be frozen if necessary. However, you need to have clear evidence that your spouse intends to take such steps and you will also need to demonstrate that this cannot be accounted for in the remaining assets of the marriage. Careful consideration of the merits of such an application is required, as cost orders can be made against a party who makes such an application without good reason.
Early Legal Advice for Both
As mentioned above, the best way to alleviate concerns is to take early legal advice and, where suitable, encourage your spouse to do so. If your spouse has taken legal advice, they will know the potential outcomes and potential costs to them if they do not continue to support you in the interim. This can lead to a much more amicable approach where matters are dealt with by agreement, rather than Court battles.
What if you cannot afford legal advice? You may need assistance from either a litigation loan or from your spouse if they have the resources to assist. If you are unable to borrow funds for legal fees and your spouse is unwilling, the Court can order that your spouse contributes to your legal fees where they have the funds to do so.
Separating can be intimidating especially if you feel your spouse has all the control. Why not take advantage of a free initial consultation to discuss your circumstances and how we can help.
Watson Thomas Solicitors have offices in Fleet, Guildford, Bracknell, Camberley, Farnborough and Woking.
Watson Thomas are a dedicated team of Family Lawyers who specialise in all aspects of family law. For advice about separation and divorce, please do get in touch.
Our staff can work from home and access all systems so even if all are required to self-isolate this will not affect the day-to-day running of your case. We can also hold appointments via telephone and video conferencing, as needs be, to ensure that your service is not interrupted.
If you would like to discuss your current situation with an expert family lawyer, please call us on 0800 488 0218.