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Double Divorces on the Rise in the UK

The number of “double divorces” in the UK has more than doubled in the last year with a higher amount of coverage in the mainstream press being one of the main factors, according to experts.

A high number of disgruntled partners have returned to court to try and obtain more capital or settlements despite the divorce already going through. Official figures from the High Court showed that the number of cases rose from 14,690 in 2013 to 29,060 in 2014 in England and Wales.

Divorce lawyers and experts state that some high profile and widely discussed cases were the main reason for the stark rise in the amount of cases seen by the High Court.  The case of millionaire Ecotricity founder Dale Vince, in particular, was cited as one of the main reasons for a rise. The millionaire's wife Kathleen Wyatt was given permission by the Supreme Court to seek a payout 30 years after divorce proceedings had been finished.

Double Divorce

Under divorce rules in England and Wales an ex-spouse can bring a new claim against their former partner, even years after the marriage was often dissolved due to the formalise the financial agreement. Often, this is ignored by the Courts in England and Wales as the settlement has already been agreed upon by the couple outside of Court.

Despite the rise in historical divorces being reopened, many legal experts have blamed the cuts in legal cuts and DIY divorces as a reason for the rise in “double divorces”.

Jo Edwards, lawyer and chair of the family law organisation, Resolution, said: “I would say that this phenomenon is largely down to the legal aid cuts which took effect in April 2013. Since then, very few people indeed will be eligible for legal aid in relation to sorting out the finances on divorce.

“They may be doing a “DIY divorce” online and will think that they have to rush through to Decree Absolute, not knowing about the financial exposure. Many will become aware only later that they need to wrap up the finances, and may do so themselves by pursuing a court route as a litigant in person, ending in a financial order.”

Despite this proposal, others have blamed the economic growth for the rise in the number of divorces across the UK. Hugh James stated that reduced incomes and depressed asset values in the recession meant many divorcing couples may now see a sudden surge in their former partner’s finance and wish for a more substantial settlement.

Charlotte Leyshon, an associate at Hugh James, said: “For most people having one of these cases brought against them is an unpleasant surprise. They may feel that their former spouse is going back on their previous arrangement simply because they may have the chance to get more.

“It’s fairly typical for one partner to keep the equity in the family home while the other keeps their pension intact. A few years later the partner with no long-term savings may come to regret that decision.

Double divorce is much more difficult to occur in Scotland due to the clean nature and final break of any divorce.

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