March 12, 2015
The Supreme Court has delivered its Judgment on the appeal in Wyatt v Vince, where the Ms Wyatt issued an application against her former husband for a lump sum some 27 years after their separation and 19 years after their Decree Absolute.
The parties married on 18th December 1981 and Decree Absolute was pronounced on 26th October 1992, and Ms Wyatt remained the primary carer of the children of the family. At the time of the divorce neither Mr Vince or Ms Wyatt had any assets or income but Mr Vince went on to form the successful energy company, Ecotricity. Ms Wyatt claimed that Mr Vince had provided virtually no financial support since their separation and that despite her best efforts, she was unable until 2010 to advance her financial claims against him.
The Court unanimously allowed Ms Wyatt’s appeal and will now permit her to pursue her claim against her former husband. The Supreme Court Judges did comment that Ms Wyatt will have some difficulty establishing her claim given the length of the marriage and the delay in bringing her claims but they could not dismiss that she has no reasonable prospects of success, nor was it, in their view an abuse of process.
The Judgment underlines the fact there is no time limit for ex-spouses to apply to the Court for a financial settlement following a divorce, however weak their claim may be.
It is a timely reminder that separating couples who want protection from such claims and try to ensure certainty in respect of financial claims in the future, even if they have no money at all, should obtain an Order from the Court at the time of the divorce (called a Consent Order), in which they both agree that there will be no further financial claims.
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