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Divorce: Do you pay the penalty because of the extra time?

View profile for Karen Johnson
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The former chairman of Swansea City Football Club is suing his ex-solicitors in relation to advice given during divorce proceedings.

Huw Jenkins sought advice in 2011 from a firm in South Wales called John Collins and Partners LLP. At the time, Swansea City Football Club had recently been promoted to the Premier League. He was advised that his financial position was not stable enough to reach a financial settlement with his wife.

Subsequently, his financial position improved significantly as a result of the promotion to the Premier League. The financial matters were eventually resolved in 2017. Mr Jenkins was ordered to pay his ex-wife a lump sum of £2.25 million, transfer property and pay spousal maintenance. His recent claim suggests that the final settlement was £2.25 million more than it would have been if the financial matters had been addressed in 2011.

Time and time again, we see cases that highlight the importance of resolving financial matters arising on divorce sooner rather than later. The courts’ powers to address financial matters arise as a result of the divorce proceedings. These powers do not terminate upon decree absolute. Only once a ‘clean break’ financial order is made can the parties’ financial claims against each other be finalised.

When dealing with the financial issues, the court is primarily looking to divide the assets built up during the marriage. If a party’s financial position improves, there can be good argument to look to ring-fence those assets as not being part of the marriage. However, this does not protect them from a claim. The court can still consider those assets as a resource available to meet both parties’ needs. As such, Mr Jenkins may be correct that the settlement was higher than if financial matters had been dealt with sooner.

This divorce case highlights the court’s difficulties when either party is facing a change to their financial circumstances. Both parties are under an ongoing obligation to provide full and frank financial disclosure. This obligation addresses not only the current financial circumstances, but also anything likely to happen in the future. For example, you should reveal an offer of a higher salary which you plan to accept, a promotion, the sale of a business or involvement in lengthy litigation.

Where there is uncertainty, it is quite usual for the court to place a hold on financial proceedings until the situation has stabilised. In Mr Jenkins’ case, the football club had just been promoted. Most people might have thought that he was about to enjoy a marked improvement to his financial situation. Had proceedings been issued in 2011, I have no doubt that the wife’s solicitors would have brought this to the court’s attention.

If they are unable to reach an agreement, Mr Jenkins’ claim against his previous solicitors will have to be decided by the court. He will need to show that the advice he was given was both wrong and caused him financial loss.

If you have separated, or are considering separating from your spouse, it is absolutely imperative that you get specialist divorce law advice.

Birkett Long’s highly experienced and specialist divorce and separation lawyers offer clear, practical advice, tailored to your circumstances. Please contact us for a free, no obligation 15 minute chat. I am based in our Colchester office and can be contacted on 01206 217305 or Alternatively, you can complete our online enquiry form.