An unadjudicated claim for financial provision following divorce must end if one of the parties dies, the Supreme Court has ruled this week. The appeal of Unger & anor v Ul-Hasan (deceased) & anor  UKSC 22 was dismissed, with Lord Hodge stating that continuing legal proceedings after the death of a “party to the marriage” would require a “reform to the law”, which was a matter for parliament.
The wife initially brought proceedings in England following an insufficient award in the couple’s home country of Pakistan. The husband subsequently died, forcing the High Court to consider whether the wife could continue her claim against his estate. Mostyn J felt that, while he disagreed, he was bound by a 1957 Court of Appeal decision to find against the wife. He did, however, permit the wife to “leapfrog” appeal directly to the Supreme Court, bypassing the Court of Appeal, who would have also been bound by the 1957 judgment.
Partner Alex Carruthers commented: “The question posed by the first instance judge—do both parties in a marriage have to be alive for there to be a divorce settlement?—has been answered.”
“Yes they do. Death ends everything, including one’s claims arising during the marriage. The Supreme Court has put to bed any suggestion that financial claims in a divorce outlive the parties.”
Read Alex’s comments in the Law Society Gazette, here, and New Law Journal, here.