The Supreme Court has made a landmark decision in the case of Wyatt v Vince regarding financial claims made on divorce. By unanimous decision the Court granted the ex wife of wealthy businessman, energy supplier Ecotricity’s founder, Dale Vince permission to bring a financial claim against him over 20 years after the marriage had broken down.
When Mr Vince invited the Court to strike out his former wife’s application, the Court considered the relevant rules and saw that there was no time limit in family law for making a financial order against an ex spouse. The former wife’s application was considered to be legally recognisable and was allowed to proceed to the Family Division of the High Court.
Lord Wilson was quick to caution however that there was no guarantee that the wife would receive the amount she wanted stating:
“Even at this stage, one can say, in the light of negatives one approaching the claimed £1.9million is out of the question. It is a dangerous fallacy that … the current law always requires rich men to meet the reasonable needs of their ex-wives.”
Lord Wilson’s comment can be explained in that he anticipated that the former wife would no doubt be relying upon her much greater contribution to the upbringing of the couple’s children over the years, a factor which may justify a financial order for a comparatively more modest sum than the £1.9 million sought.
Some say that the case appears to have paved the way for anyone without an order of financial separation to bring a claim against an ex spouse regardless of how long ago they divorced.
Certainly, Jo Edwards, Chair of Resolution, points out that the case “stresses that the Court will consider the merits of such applications on a case-by-case basis”.
If we can take anything from this decision it is the importance of securing legal advice regarding financial matters at the earliest opportunity. Once the decision to divorce has been made, seeking guidance from an expert lawyer who specialises in financial separation is not only sensible but essential. Failure to do so can leave parties without closure, unaware of their rights to financial relief and with large legal bills and stressful court proceedings, as Ms Wyatt now faces.
Equally, failure to take advice on and achieve a financial settlement leaves parties vulnerable to financial claims by their ex spouse in the future, something we are sure Mr Vince did not anticipate 23 years on.
Here at Farleys Solicitors our dedicated Family law team have a wealth of experience handling high value divorce settlements. Our expertise in this complex area of law means we are well-equipped to advise you on all aspects of the divorce and financial separation process. We can offer invaluable support and affordable fee packages tailored to meet your individual needs.
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