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Getting divorced? Protect yourself with a Financial Court Order

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A high profile case in the Supreme Court has hit the headlines this week. The case (Wyatt v Vince [2015] UKSC14) highlights the importance of getting your finances in order when going through divorce.

22 years after their divorce in 1992 and following a four year litigation battle, Kathleen Wyatt has successfully won the right to apply for a financial Order against her former husband, Dale Vince.

She has been granted this right because, at the time of their divorce, the couple failed to obtain a financial Clean Break Consent Order from the Court, which would have ensured that neither party could file future financial claims against the other after the divorce. Some commentators are saying that this might open the floodgates for other cases where couples did not obtain financial Court Orders on divorce.

The couple married in 1981 and had two children before separating in or around 1984 (although the actual date was disputed). They obtained the Decree Absolute of divorce in 1992. At that time, neither husband nor wife had any assets or income as they both lived, what the Court referred to as, a “new age traveller lifestyle”.

In the years following the divorce, it became apparent that the husband was, in fact, a technological and business genius! After the divorce, he became a founder of an exceptionally successful green energy company called Ecotricity in the mid 1990s. Mr Vince had made himself a small wind turbine out of retrieved and recycled materials to generate electricity for his caravan. From that small seed, his idea grew into a hugely successful business which is now worth many millions. He is reportedly now worth in excess of £100 million and has an OBE.

Although there is actually no statutory time limit on bringing financial claims in divorce cases, one of the key issues in this case that senior judges have been grappling with, is whether a former spouse should be entitled to bring a financial claim at all, bearing in mind the significant time delay since their divorce.

Outcome of the Case

The husband’s position was that the wife’s claim was an abuse of the process and should be struck out. However the Supreme Court unanimously directed that the wife’s application for financial remedy in proceedings after their divorce can go ahead.

The ruling means that anyone can make a financial claim against their former spouse regardless of how long ago they were divorced, assuming they have not remarried.

If you would like some tailored advice about financial matters following a divorce, or more information about this key case then please call one of our family law experts on 01295 270999.

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