Wyatt v Vince: Divorce Pay Out Possible after 20 Years
12 March 2015 by Simon Osborn
Yesterday, the Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal in the case of Wyatt v Vince  UKSC 14, ruling that the wife’s claim for a financial order made 19 years after the couple divorced, and 27 years after they had separated, was not an abuse of process and should not be struck out. Delivering the ruling, Lord Wilson stated that the court must have regard “to the contribution of each party to the welfare of the family, including by looking after the home or caring for the family”.
Mr Vince and Ms Wyatt met as students and married in December 1981. They had one son together living as New Age travellers before they separated in 1984. Mr Vince also treated Ms Wyatt’s daughter from a previous relationship as a child of the family. Following their split, Ms Wyatt brought up the children without any substantial financial contribution from Mr Vince. The couple divorced in 1992, following which Mr Vince set up a green energy company in 1995 called Ecotricity. According to news sources, he is now worth an estimated £107million.
Importantly in this case, the court divorce file has been mislaid and it is unknown if any order was made for financial provision. However, the court has no reason to believe that Ms Wyatt’s claims for financial provision were dismissed, therefore allowing her to make her application.
Ms Wyatt first made her claim for a financial order in 2011. Mr Vince had previously appealed against Ms Wyatt’s application on the basis she had lodged the claim too late. The case will now go before the Family Court with the possibility of Ms Wyatt receiving a considerable settlement.
However, Lord Wilson also stated that the £1.9million settlement she had hoped to secure was too high an amount, “Even at this stage one can say that, in the light of the negatives, an award approaching that size is out of the question.” He said that, had he been asked, “my opinion would have been that it had a real prospect of comparatively modest success, perhaps of an order which would enable her …. to purchase a somewhat more comfortable, and mortgage-free, home for herself and her remaining dependants.”
According to the BBC, in a statement, Mr Vince branded the decision of the Supreme Court as mad. He went on to say “I feel that we all have a right to move on, and not be looking over our shoulders.”
This case underlines the importance to all couples who are going through separation and divorce to record their financial arrangements in an enforceable legal agreement, frequently a court order made by consent, regardless of how little they have between them at the time. If they intend there to be a financial clean break, bringing to an end the financial claims which each of them have against the other arising out of their marriage, there is a well tried procedure which enables them to obtain a court order to this effect by consent.
For further information about clean break consent orders on relationship breakdown, please click here.