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Greene & Greene is a long established firm of solicitors based in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Our lawyers advise individuals and businesses based all over the UK.

We regularly attract new clients who have been using firms in London, but now receive a more cost efficient and more personal service from us here in Bury St Edmunds.

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Monthly Archives

Entries in Marriage (11)


What’s Up with a “Pre Nup”?

In his role as a specialist family lawyer with Greene & Greene, Stuart Hughes is often asked by clients about pre and post nuptial agreements.

Arguably one does not enter into a marriage expecting that it might end in divorce, however the statistics show that unfortunately many marriages do break down resulting in separation and Divorce. 

The Divorce and associated financial settlement can be both unpredictable and expensive, so, whilst not the most romantic gesture, a nuptial agreement can be of considerable benefit to both parties by providing a measure of clarity and certainty.

That said, the idea of a nuptial agreement regularly provokes a range of emotive responses.

To help, Stuart starts by explaining the following:

  1. If the agreement is fair, if certain established conditions are met and if you sign a nuptial agreement, then you should expect the court to hold you to it;
  2. A fair agreement arrived at with the benefit of sound legal advice can provide peace of mind and guard against expensive and unpredictable proceedings.  However it is always the hope and intention that the agreement will not be needed and the marriage will succeed.  The agreement should be put in place in much the same way as an insurance policy is taken out to cover unforeseen circumstances;
  3. An individual with inherited wealth, pre-acquired assets or an established asset base should consider a nuptial agreement.  The cost of preparing an agreement is minimal compared to the risk of and costs of proceedings; and
  4. A nuptial agreement can be entered into before the marriage (pre nuptial) or after the marriage (post nuptial).

Deciding on whether to enter into a pre or post nuptial agreement or even whether to have a nuptial agreement at all can be the hardest choice.

Many of the agreements drafted are in place to protect assets such as a pre-owned property, a business or farming estates that are typically brought to the marriage by one party.

It is also increasingly commonplace for parents (and indeed grandparents) to provide financial assistance to the younger generation in getting a foothold on the property ladder and a properly drafted nuptial agreement can protect the family wealth against future claims.

Asset protection is a key part of the work that Greene & Greene undertake for their clients and as is often said “prevention is better than the cure”.

Nuptial agreements form a significant part of the family team’s work and Greene & Greene is a leading firm in West Suffolk in preparing both pre and post nuptial agreements for clients throughout East Anglia and London, with particular expertise in respect of farming families.

If you need a specialist family lawyer please contact Stuart Hughes in the Greene & Greene Family Law Team for an initial no-obligation discussion on 01284 717493 or stuarthughes@greene-greene.com.  For more information on the services available at Greene & Greene please visit www.greene-greene.com and follow on Twitter @greenegreenelaw.

*This article was first published in the March Edition of Bury & West Suffolk Magazine


Marriage: A Partnership of Equals?


In 2006, the House of Lords introduced the equal sharing principle in the joint appeal of Miller -v- Miller and MacFarlane -v- MacFarlane.  The Court described marriage as being a “partnership of equals”

Earlier this year, the Court of Appeal decision in  Work -v- Gray referred to the sharing principle as being “firmly embedded” and confirmed that the “ordinary consequence of its application will be the equal division of matrimonial property”.

However, in the recent case of Sharp -v- Sharp, the Court of Appeal decided that perhaps this was taking the sharing principle too far.  Mr and Mrs Sharp were in their early 40s and had no children.  Their relationship, including 18 months of living together before their marriage, lasted 6 years.

Mrs Sharp argued that the sharing principle should be relaxed in respect of their matrimonial assets. This was because  of their short, childless, dual career marriage and the way in which they had organised their financial affairs.

Throughout their relationship and marriage, Mr and Mrs Sharp shared household utility bills and divided restaurant bills equally. Mr Sharp had not been aware of bonuses received by Mrs Sharp and she had gifted him three cars.

The Court of Appeal agreed with Mrs Sharp that this situation fell within the realms of a very small amount of cases where it was appropriate for the equal sharing principle to be disregarded for their matrimonial assets.

The Court has always had the ability to exclude or depart from equal sharing of non-matrimonial assets, such as those owned by one party before the marriage or received by inheritance or gift, the general approach has been that matrimonial assets would be shared, and where they were sufficient to meet each parties’ needs, those matrimonial assets would be shared equally.

It appears that following the outcome of this case,  Courts will look more closely at how couples have organised their financial affairs in short to medium term marriages.  In a limited number of cases,  the way in which couples organise  their finances may influence the outcome of financial aspects of their divorce.

To misquote George Orwell, this may lead to an assumption that all marriages are equal, but some marriages are more equal than others.

For further advice following a relationship breakdown please contact Melanie Pilmer, solicitor in the Family Team at Greene & Greene on 01284 717 418 or melaniepilmer@greene-greene.com.

For more information on the services offered by Greene & Greene Solicitors please visit www.greene-greene.com and follow on Twitter @GreeneGreeneLaw.


Family Court Error Could Be Costly

There have been reports in the press regarding a calculator error in a Court form that is used where a Financial Order is made in divorce, nullity, dissolution or judicial separation proceedings.  The Court Service has indicated that the error in “Form E” that is obtained online from the Court Service may have affected cases where forms were submitted to the Court between April 2011 and January 2012 and also April 2014 and December 2015.

Greene & Greene use a bespoke forms package so this error will not impact on cases where Greene & Greene have prepared Form E on behalf of a client.  We also check that the form calculates correctly before submitting it to Court.

If you feel that your case may have been impacted by the online Court form error (either because you or the other party used the form provided by the Court Service) you could potentially apply to the Court to vary all or part of the Financial Order or have it set aside and a new Court Order made.

If you require advice on whether or not your case is affected please do not hesitate to contact Juliet Harvey (julietharvey@greene-greene.com, telephone 01284 717448) or a member of the Family Team. For more updates from Greene & Greene please follow us on twitter @greenegreenelaw and LinkedIn at linkedin.com/company/greene-&-greene.


Fraud and Non-Disclosure in Divorce: “Back to the Future?”

Marty McFly left 1985 and travelled to 2015 in the film Back to the Future 2.  What does this have to do with fraud and non-disclosure?  Well the Supreme Court also recently “travelled back to 1985”.

Judgment was handed down on 14 October 2015 in the conjoined appeals at the Supreme Court of the cases of Sharland v Sharland and Gohil v Gohil.  In both cases the Court of Appeal had declined to overturn previous decisions despite evidence of fraud and deliberate non-disclosure.

Mr and Mrs Sharland had reached an agreement during the final hearing in their case. Mrs Sharland then later discovered that Mr Sharland had been making arrangements to float his company on the New York Stock Exchange. This was despite Mr Sharland’s evidence to the Court that it was most unlikely a sale or floatation would happen in less than 3 years. Having discovered this information Mrs Sharland appealed. The Court of Appeal said that whilst Mr Sharland’s evidence was seriously misleading and dishonest the non-disclosure was not significant enough for the Court to have arrived at a different outcome.

The Supreme Court has allowed Mrs Sharland’s appeal and the case will return for a further hearing.  As a result of Mr Sharland’s non-disclosure the previous agreement does not stand and Mrs Sharland may yet receive further funds from her husband.

In arriving at its decision the Court repeated the position first established back in 1985 in a case Livesey (formerly Jenkins) v Jenkins that the duty remains with the disclosing party to provide full and frank disclosure to the Court.

Mr and Mrs Gohil settled their case and entered into a consent order. The order included a recital that Mrs Gohil believed her husband had not provided full and frank disclosure of his financial circumstances. Mr Gohil had disclosed he was in debt totaling £311,512, but he was later convicted for money laundering and fraud valued at over $57 million. The Supreme Court allowed Mrs Gohil’s appeal and returned her case for further hearing.

So the message is clear, if you lie about or misrepresent your assets and fail to make “full financial disclosure” then the Court may overturn an agreement reached. Non-disclosers beware!

The Family Team at Greene & Greene have a wealth of experience in advising in relation to the financial aspects of divorce and separation.  All members of the team are trained Collaborative Lawyers.  Greene & Greene also offer a Family Mediation Service and the team has significant experience in drafting Nuptial Agreements.  For further information contact Melanie Pilmer on 01284 717 418 or melaniepilmer@greene-greene.com.  To find out more about Greene & Greene go to www.greene-greene.com and follow @greenegreenelaw. 


In Divorce “Fair” Doesn’t Always Mean “Equal”

“Sharing is sometimes more demanding than giving” - Mary Catherine Bateson

It is a common assumption that within a divorce the capital assets, such as the house, savings and investments, will be divided equally.

Most of you may be surprised to hear about the recent case involving Essam Aly and his wife Enas, where she was awarded 100% of the capital assets.  The case has been reported as a legal first.

Courts depart from equality every single day on the basis of need.  Sometimes this unequal division is due to varying contributions to the marriage or the fact that they have brought different value assets into the marriage. 

In this case the unequal division was due to the husband’s failure to support his wife and two children after he moved to Bahrain in 2012.  The Judge took the view that Mrs Aly could not rely upon her husband for future provision for her and their children and awarded her 100% of the capital assets to reflect that Mr Aly would retain all of his income and was unlikely to provide any on-going support to his wife and children. 

Although the circumstances are rare, with Mr Aly being based in Bahrain and outside of the reach of the court’s usual enforcement process, this case should be seen as a warning to those seeking to avoid their responsibilities on a breakdown of the marriage.

The Family Team at Greene & Greene have a wealth of experience in advising in relation to the financial aspects of divorce and separation.  All members of the team are trained Collaborative Lawyers.  Greene & Greene also offer a Family Mediation Service and the team has significant experience in drafting Nuptial Agreements.  For further information contact Melanie Pilmer on 01284 717 418 or melaniepilmer@greene-greene.com.  To find out more about Greene & Greene go to www.greene-greene.com and follow @greenegreenelaw.


Fool if you think it's over...

In 1981 Mr Vince and Miss Wyatt married. He was 20 and she was 22. Neither had any assets or income.

They separated in 1984 and Miss Wyatt claimed benefits. Mr Vince began living in an old ambulance. The divorce was finalised in 1992.

Mr Vince built a small wind turbine from recycled materials to generate electricity for his caravan. From this humble start he went on to establish Ecotricity – a company now worth many millions of pounds.

Miss Wyatt made an application for financial support from Mr Vince in 2011. The court and solicitors’ files could not be located (having been lost or destroyed) and so it was unclear whether Miss Wyatt had made any claims for financial provision at the point of divorce or indeed whether those claims had been already dealt with or dismissed.

Mr Vince sought dismissal of Miss Wyatt’s application due to it having been a short marriage of around three years, because they had been separated for over two decades and because if Miss Wyatt had made a claim at the point of separation it would have been dismissed as there were no assets available for distribution.

The Court of Appeal allowed Mr Vince’s application to strike out Miss Wyatt’s claim saying in relation to Mr Vince: “He is not her insurer against life’s eventualities”. Miss Wyatt appealed.

The Supreme Court heard the case in December 2014 and judgment was handed down on 11th March 2015. Allowing Miss Wyatt’s appeal, the Supreme Court Justices said that she had “a real prospect of comparatively modest success” in respect of her financial claim, notwithstanding the passing of over 20 years since the divorce.

Mr Vince and Miss Wyatt have incurred legal costs of hundreds of thousands of pounds and the Supreme Court has indicated that whilst Miss Wyatt’s application “faces formidable difficulties” it is likely she will receive some provision from Mr Vince – possibly sufficient to securely house herself and three of her adult children.

All of this could have been avoided had the financial aspects of the divorce been properly dealt with at the time of the divorce by the parties entering into a clean break order.

For further advice on how to protect your assets following a relationship breakdown, please contact Melanie Pilmer, a solicitor in the Greene & Greene family team, on 01284 717418 or melaniepilmer@greene-greene.com. Follow us on Twitter @greenegreenelaw.