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Financial claims years after the divorce

02nd April 2015

On the 11th March, the Supreme Court delivered a Judgment in favour of Kathleen Wyatt.

She had the good fortune to marry Dale Vince, who at the time was a man of slender means. The facts make interesting reading. The couple met as students, married in 1981 and separated in 1984. During the marriage and for some time afterwards, the parties were of very modest means. However, notwithstanding this, following their separation Mr Vince generated a remarkable fortune now standing in excess of 100 million pounds.

They had a son, while Mr Vince treated his wife‘s daughter as a child of the family.

A decree absolute was granted in late 1992. Although the pair divorced at no point were the financial claims resolved and so in 2011, Ms Wyatt applied for a financial order against her former husband.

The case made its way through the Courts and the Supreme Court has now decided that Ms Wyatt can pursue her claim for a financial Order.

It remains to be seen whether this application has any value.  The Supreme Court indicated that Ms Wyatt may be entitled to a mortgage free property, highlighting her contribution to the family during and afterwards by raising the parties’ son (she wanted £1.9 million which was rejected as unstainable).

However, the point is well made that matrimonial claims are very different to other claims such as for a breach of contract and remain live after the marriage has come to an end.  Of course, if a party remarries then their claims are terminated, but assuming they have not it is still possible for a former spouse to apply to a Court for a financial Order.  At the very least, this will cause extreme irritation and potential disruption to what would otherwise have been thought of as a new life unencumbered by a former spouse.

All this can be avoided and had Mr Vince resolved the claims while he was still a new age traveller (I am not joking on this), then doubtless the position would have been very different.  It is always open to parties on separation and divorce to resolve their claims whether by agreement or otherwise.  This has the advantage of ensuring clarity, certainty and therefore peace of mind.

The principle of general application is this; if you avoid dealing with these claims at the point of your separation and divorce, they may well come back to haunt you.

If you would like to know more about this issue please contact Jim Richards to discuss this further.

George Ide
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