Relying on an agreement with his wife Nicola when they divorced left Glenn Briers from Willenhall, boss of the fashion empire Lydenford Ltd, with a £2.7m bill 11 years later; his solicitor Kevin Harris-James has warned that the case has taken divorce law into new territory and should act as a warning to splitting couples to make sure that they take proper advice.
Mr Briers, a former teacher, had made the agreement with his then wife Nicola, giving her the lion’s share of the marital wealth at that time so he could retain his fledging business. But it was never formalised and she went to court 11 years later to claim that there had been no full and final settlement between them.
During those 11 years, he had built up his business, now worth about £10m and encompassing sports and streetwear brands Lambretta and Vision Streetwear – his ex-wife was awarded a £1.6m lump sum and 25 per cent of his pension when she first took the case to court. He then took the case to the Court of Appeal, but three senior judges ruled against him.
Kevin Harris-James said: “This should set alarm bells ringing for all divorcing couples who have not yet made a full and final agreement; this cannot safely be left to individuals to agree between themselves without proper legal advice. That kind of informal arrangement leaves the way open for future financial claims – a consent order approved by the court is the only safe way to proceed.”
Although the law had already established that a delay was not enough to prevent a spouse making claims long after a divorce, Kevin said: “This case has taken the law further and has established that a wife may be entitled, not just to her basic needs, but also to a share of existing assets.
“A court-approved consent order at the time of the divorce in full and final settlement would have prevented such a claim. The Court of Appeal were keen to re-iterate and preserve the absolute and unfettered discretion of the family court in the exercise of its statutory function, and their decision rejected the argument that Mrs Briers’ claims should be restricted, because of the delay, to her needs alone.”
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