The importance of closing down financial claims in a Divorce Matter [Wyatt v Vince  UKSC14]
The Supreme Court allows a wife’s claim to proceed 23 years after divorce. The parties married in 1981, separated in 1984 and they divorced in 1992 and therefore the relationship broke down 31 years ago. They had one son, Dane, and the husband treated the wife’s daughter from a previous relationship as a child of the family.
The court divorce file cannot be located and therefore it is unknown as to whether any financial provision was made by way of an order at the time but there is no reason for the court to believe that the wife’s financial claims were dismissed. There is no time limit in family law for seeking orders for financial provision or property adjustment for the benefit of a spouse.
The wife made an application for financial provision in 2011 as well as interim payments to fund her legal costs. The husband then applied for her application to be struck out as he argued that it was too late for her to lodge her application but this application was dismissed and he then appealed successfully to the Court of Appeal and the wife’s application was struck out. The wife then appealed to the Supreme Court and the claim can now proceed.
The standard of living enjoyed by the parties prior to the breakdown was low and the husband did not begin to create his wealth until 13 years after the breakdown of the relationship and the wife has made no contributions to this wealth. The husband’s company, Ecotricity Group Ltd is valued at least £57 million and he is said to be worth £107 million. The husband currently lives with his second wife, their son and Dane. The wife strongly relies on the husband’s lack of financial support of their son Dane until 2001.
It remains to be seen as to whether the ruling will pave the way for anyone without a completed financial order to bring a claim regardless of how long ago they divorced although due to the extraordinary circumstances of the case, it is unlikely the floodgates will be opened.
This case demonstrates the importance of receiving legal advice upon a divorce and the importance of financial matters being finalised and a court order being obtained.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see how the court approaches the wife’s claim and whether she will get any retrospective award in recognition for raising Dane. The wife does however face difficulties with her claim in consideration of the short duration of the marriage and the long delay in bringing the application.