There has been a real media frenzy following the Supreme Court decision giving an ex-wife permission to apply for a financial order from her ex-husband 22 years after they divorced in 1992.
So what is all the fuss about?
Mrs Kathleen Wyatt and Mr Dale Vince married in 1981 and separated in early 1984. Mrs Wyatt had a child from a previous relationship, whom it is accepted was a child of the family. The couple had one son together who remained living with Mrs Wyatt until he moved to live with his father at the age of 18. At the time of the marriage and separation Mrs Wyatt and Mr Vince were new age travellers who lived what has been described as a hand to mouth existence. After the separation Mrs Wyatt’s circumstances did not improve greatly, she continued to live and raise the children in difficult financial circumstances.
Mr Vince on the other hand, developed the world-famous Ecotricity wind turbine system in 1995 and is now worth an estimated £101m. He lives in a £3 million house with his second wife and son. Mrs Wyatt also formed another relationship and had 2 more children.
In 2011 Mrs Wyatt issued an application for Mr Wyatt to provide her with a financial settlement arising out of their marriage. On the face of it Mrs Wyatt’s application should have been a nonstarter. However, she was able to rely on the fact there is no limitation period for making an application for a financial order after a marriage if no court order has ever been made.
And that is the nub of this story. At the time of their divorce, probably because they did not have any money or assets, Mrs Wyatt and Mr Vince did not deal with any possible financial issues in relation to their marriage. That means the door has been left wide open for over 20 years for either of them to make a claim against the other at any time.
This case is a harsh reminder of the need to dot that i’s and cross the t’s when a marriage ends by making sure you not only deal with the divorce, but you also get a court order (usually a Consent Order) dividing the matrimonial assets if there are any and then dismissing any future claims either of you could make against the other. Even if at the time of your divorce you think there isn’t anything to divide between the two of you, let the case of Mrs Wyatt and Mr Vince be a timely reminder that irrespective of how much or how little you have, unless you get a final court order, your marriage may be over but you have not closed or bolted the financial door behind you.
For specialist advice about your particular circumstances call Alberta Tevie on 020 8899 6620 or email her on firstname.lastname@example.org