Emmersons Solicitors, consent orders.
Some years ago a 65 year old fishmonger came to see me. His wife had left him twelve years previously without warning. This came as a huge shock to Mr Herring. The couple had never had a cross word and neither of them were having an affair. Eventually our client discovered that his wife had moved to South Durham and had obtained a small council house. She refused to return or continue with the marriage.
Mrs Herring said that she wanted nothing from Mr Herring, she did not seek an interest in his business, she did not seek a share of the house and she did not require maintenance. Mr Herring had to get on with his life. He paid off the mortgage over the years, he put aside some savings and he continued to contribute to his pension.
When Mr Herring came into Emmerson’s Family Law Department he had just celebrated his 65th birthday. A week after that celebration a letter had arrived from his wife’s solicitor. Mrs Herring now sought a share of Mr Herring’s pension. He was devastated. The pension was not going to be paying out a huge amount each month, it was just enough to live on comfortably.
Mr Herring lived in one of the cheapest houses in Sunderland. Therefore he could not sell and buy a cheaper house. He did not wish to give up his home. I had to advise him that as Mrs Herring had no assets and no pension, and as she had not received any Financial Settlement from Mr Herring, he was now going to have to find some way of settling the matter.
He was able to take out a modest loan against his home to finalise matters with Mrs Herring.
How could this have been avoided?
At the time the couple separated they should also have divorced. If Mrs Herring insisted that she wanted nothing then Mr Herring would have been advised to obtain a court order to that effect. Thus he would have been free to enjoy the fruits of his long working life free of the financial demands of a wife who had walked out on him twelve years previously.
Notably Mr Herring didn’t have a will and he was still married to Mrs Herring when he first visited me. Had he died Mrs Herring would have inherited everything!
I often think about the shock on that poor man’s face when he first came to see me. I hope he has now found some peace in his life.
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