Posted on 11.3.15 by Kerry Lees-Russell
Today’s recent high profile case has brought to light the importance of having a financial clean break order as part of a divorce to avoid unwanted claims from an ex-spouse later down the line.
Dale Vince, a self-made millionaire, thanks to his green energy company Ecotricity, was taken to court by his ex-wife of 20 years who was seeking a capital sum and lifelong maintenance, despite the fact Mr Vince made his fortune many years after the couple divorced.
The couple married in 1981, when both were receiving state benefits. They had a son together and the wife had a daughter from a previous relationship. They then separated in 1984 and their divorce was finalised in 1992. Both moved on to other partners who they had children with, Mr Vince having married his new partner in 2006.
Mr Vince’s company was launched in 1995 and was estimated by the Sunday Times Rich List to be worth £90m.
The wife brought a claim for financial remedy against Mr Vince in May 2011, approximately 18 years after they initially divorced. Mr Vince argued that Ms Wyatt’s claim should have been blocked as her application for financial remedy was made so long after the divorce. Despite her delay in bringing the claim and the lack of any marital assets at the time of the separation, the High Court ordered in December 2012 that Ms Wyatt’s claim could proceed to trial but in May 2013 the Court of Appeal reversed that decision and struck out Ms Wyatt’s claim. Ms Wyatt then went on to appeal this decision at the Supreme Court who have now allowed her claim to proceed and the case should be determined by the High Court.
In the judgement handed down today (11 March 2015), Supreme Court Judge Wilson stated that Ms Wyatt’s claim was “legally recognisable” and was not an “abuse of process.” Mr Vince has reportedly issued a statement describing the Supreme Court decision is “mad” and expressed his disappointment that Ms Wyatt’s claim can still be considered some 30 years after the relationship ended.
Two things really strike me about this case:
- It is possible to pursue financial claims against an ex-spouse many years after a divorce and Mr Vince ought to have entered into a clear and accurate financial order at the time of divorce proceedings. Such a court order could have not only recorded the way in which any marital assets are divided between them but also (and more importantly here) prevent the parties from pursuing financial claims against each other in the future.
- Some would argue that that the court should not allow people to be harassed by claims for financial relief that were issued many years after the divorce but I would say that Mr Vince ought to have taken sufficient steps to prevent his ex from pursuing financial claims against him in the future, despite the lack of assets in existence at that time.
Talk to Kerry about how this affects you or if you are in a similar situation by calling on 0161 930 5117! Our advice…always settle your finances on divorce! A cautionary tale!