By Melanie Townsend
In the recent case of Miller Smith the wife’s legal representatives applied to delay the decree absolute (which dissolves a marriage) on the basis that if the marriage were to end the wife would lose the benefit of the husband’s pension including health benefits.
The Courts agreed that it did have the power to delay the decree absolute but said that this should only be exercised if special or exceptional circumstances were proved. In this case the Court ruled that no advantage has been demonstrated from delaying the application.
The Court did say that if it could be established that the wife would have suffered financial or other disadvantage in relation to which she could not receive compensation it would be possible to delay the decree absolute. In this case the Court held that this was not the case as the husband had offered undertakings both to protect the wife’s health insurance and to nominate the wife to receive pension benefits under the company pension scheme.
The Courts also said that the wife’s case to delay the decree absolute may be stronger if she could demonstrate that the trustees of the pension scheme may refuse to accept the nomination and if the husband died before the conclusion of the ancillary relief proceedings she would have been able to recover compensation for the loss of pension benefits out of his estate. It seems therefore more likely that the Courts would consider delaying the decree absolute if for example the pension assets constituted the majority value of the matrimonial pot.
If you have a family matter you wish to discuss with Melanie, please do not hesitate to telephone Townsend Family Law on 01992 892214 for more information about our reduced rate first appointment. We service all local areas including Epping, Harlow, Hertford, Romford and so on, but we also offer video and telephone conferencing if it is inconvenient for you to attend our offices.