Vince v Wyatt: Could Your Ex-Spouse Come Back To Haunt You?

There was much publicity about the case of Vince v Wyatt, where an ex-wife was allowed to pursue a financial claim against her former husband despite divorcing 22 years previously.

The Facts of the Case

– Kathleen Wyatt (the Wife) and Dale Vince (the Husband) married in 1981. The Wife had a daughter prior to the marriage who the Husband accepted into the family
– In 1983 the parties had a son
– During the marriage the parties lived mostly on state benefits.
– In 1984 the parties separated and whilst the Husband pursued a new-age travelling lifestyle, the Wife struggled to financially care for the two children and herself. At this stage the Husband could not afford to make any financial contribution to support the Wife and children.
– The parties’ divorce was finalised in 1992. The Court records were destroyed long ago. The Husband contended that the Court dismissed the Wife’s financial claims at that time but there was no evidence of this.
– The Wife went on to have two further children and the Husband remarried and had three children.
– In the late 1990’s the Husband founded a green energy business which is today estimated to be worth around £57m.
– In 2011 the Wife applied for a financial remedy order.

What did the Court’s decide?

At the first hearing the Husband tried to have the Wife’s application dismissed but lost. He then appealed and won in the Court of Appeal.

Then the Wife appealed to the Supreme Court who allowed the appeal so that the Wife may pursue her financial applications. The Supreme Court also ordered the
the Husband to make payments to fund the Wife’s legal fees.

Has this case changed the law?

Perhaps surprisingly no. Money claims on divorce are not time limited. Until a Court Order is made either party may bring a claim. However, if a potential claimant remarries without making claims to the Court in their previous divorce proceedings, they are barred from pursuing financial claims against their former spouse after their remarriage.

What does this case mean for divorcing couples?

Couples should deal with their financial matters at the time of the divorce and finalise them by obtaining a Court Order. This can simply be an Order providing for the formal dismissal of financial claims. An application for an agreed financial Order is usually dealt with as part of the Court’s paperwork. It is not expensive to instruct a solicitor to deal with an agreed Order.

What does this case mean for couples who are already divorced?

If no agreement was reached regarding finances at the time of the divorce, either party may be able to bring a claim against the other at some time in the future.

If you would like more information or you are unsure if a Court Order dealing with financial matters was obtained at the time of divorce, contact us today.

Call us now on 01273 604123, email us at enquire@bbc-law.co.uk or book an appointment online.