In a, perhaps surprising, landmark judgement, the Supreme Court has today allowed a woman to pursue a claim against her ex-husband – more than 20 years after they were divorced.
Multimillionaire Dale Vince now faces a claim from his former wife, Kathleen Wyatt for a financial settlement which could, potentially, exceed £1m. This despite the fact that during the brief marriage, and at the time of separation back in the mid 1980’s, neither had two pennies to rub together.
After the parties separated, but before they were actually divorced in 1992, Mr Vince founded the wind power firm, Ecotricity. The business did rather well and Mr Vince is now said to be worth an estimated £107m. Unfortunately for Mr Vince, Ms Wyatt has been less successful financially, and so she decided to pursue a financial claim against him, based upon the fact that they had previously been husband and wife and her right to pursue such claims had never been terminated.
The claim, which was originally issued in 2011, had been stopped in its tracks by the Court of Appeal, but has now been given the go ahead by the Supreme Court. Although the Court made clear that it was “out of the question” that Ms Wyatt might be awarded the sum she was said to be seeking – a figure in the region of £1.9m, the Court recognised that she might be awarded sufficient funds to allow her to move to a “more suitable mortgage free home”.
Perhaps significantly, Ms Wyatt was said to have been responsible for caring for the parties’ now adult son, through what the Court described as “16 years of real hardship”.
Whatever the outcome may prove to be, this serves as a timely reminder that it is essential all parties who divorce get advice about the need to settle their financial arrangements at the time of the divorce and, if appropriate, seek a financial clean break order, bringing to an end any rights that either might have to pursue claims against the other, irrespective of what might happen in the future.
Although there are not many who go from living in a rundown ambulance to becoming a multi-millionaire as Mr Vince did, even if you have very little at the time you divorce or separate, this is a timely reminder that circumstances can and do change, perhaps through inheritance or a lottery win and, if you and your former partner have failed to settle your arrangements by means of a court order you too could find yourself in an unexpected and potentially very costly battle.
If you are in any doubt about the financial impact of divorce, or want to consider seeking a financial clean break, please contact one of our experts who would be happy to assist you. Please contact our Exeter office on 01392 421 777 or our Family Lawyers in Plymouth on 01752 674 999.