It is not uncommon for affection and trust to survive the end of a marriage – but legal advice is still almost always required to ensure a fair outcome. In one striking case, a woman who waited until almost 20 years had passed since her divorce before seeking financial support from her ex-husband ended up with nothing but a family judge's sympathy.
The woman was aged 17 when she married a man who was almost a decade her senior. Their 13-year marriage ended in divorce in 1995, but she continued to trust him and did not launch financial relief proceedings against him until 2014. Although his infidelity had contributed to the breakdown of the marriage, she had throughout remained convinced that he would 'see her right'.
In ordering her ex-husband to pay her a £10,000 lump sum and annual maintenance of £9,576 for life, a district judge found that he had culpably strung her along and lulled her into a false sense of security. She had fallen on straitened financial circumstances and had a clear need for financial support.
In allowing the ex-husband's appeal against that decision, however, a family judge noted that a great deal of water had passed under the bridge since the divorce and that a 20-year delay in launching proceedings might well be unprecedented. Misfortunes that the woman had endured during those years had not been caused by her divorce and there was no basis for an award designed to make good the shortfall in her budget indefinitely.
The district judge's sympathy for the woman's predicament was understandable, as was the dim view she took of the ex-husband's behaviour. However, in the absence of a causal link between the marriage and the woman's current need, there was no basis for making the awards, both of which were overturned.