Supreme Court Rules Ex-Wife Entitled To Payout 22 Years After Divorce

Lawyers Say All Divorcing Couples Must Heed Warning To Get Their Financial Agreements In Order

11.03.2015

Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

Lawyers say a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court, which enables an ex-wife to claim a payout 22 years after they divorced, is a strong warning to all couples to ensure their financial orders are finalised or face future claims against their wealth.

A judgment in the case between Kathleen Wyatt and her former husband Dale Vince who became a millionaire after their divorce was handed down today (11 March 2015) and ruled that she was entitled to claim despite the couple having no assets when they separated.

Judges handing down the ruling did however comment that although she shouldn’t be entitled to the £1.9m she originally claimed, she would be likely to be provided with a more modest sum to purchase a mortgage free home. A future High Court hearing will now review how much she is entitled to according with current law.

Elizabeth Hicks, a leading divorce lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said:

Expert Opinion
“This ruling essentially paves the way for anyone without a completed financial order to bring a claim against their former spouse regardless of how long ago they divorced.

“The case highlights the importance of ensuring that all financial matters are finalised at the time of divorce and a court order is obtained. Otherwise it could lead to future claims to a share of the wealth earned after the divorce.

“It is unprecedented to hear of a claim being made after 22 years but the court has ruled that because there was no financial order and no time limit in family law for making a financial order, there was nothing to prevent Ms Wyatt’s claim from being successful and the High Court will now consider how much she should receive bearing in mind current law.

“While any good divorce lawyer should ensure that all financial matters are finalised and immune to future claims, it is crucial that any divorcees who don’t have financial orders in place review their situation as they may now face claims against them based on wealth acquired after the divorce.”
Elizabeth Hicks, Partner

Background

The couple divorced in 1992 and apparently never finalised any financial arrangements following their divorce as there were no or few assets at the time to resolve. But in 1995 three years after their divorce he went on to form the green energy company Ecotricity which is now a major business in the industry making Mr Wyatt a multi-millionaire thought to be worth over £100m.

Ms Wyatt, who cared for the couple’s son and a daughter she had from a previous marriage,  brought a claim for around £1.9m some 22 years after their divorce saying Mr Vince had provided her with virtually no financial assistance despite becoming wealthy.

She also told the court she had been too afraid of her ex-husband to bring the claim earlier. The High Court had originally ruled in her favour but this was overturned by the Court of Appeal after Mr Vince argued the claim was brought too late, despite there being no official time limits for this in family law courts.

The hearing in front of five Supreme Court judges was heard in December last year.

 

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