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Chilling divorce case is a blast from the past

A rags to riches divorce story which hit the headlines recently may be causing sleepless nights for many divorced couples.

The case which was heard at the Supreme Court involved Mrs Wyatt and Mr Vince.  It’s a lesson for everyone getting divorced to take specialist advice and ensure that claims for financial support are dealt with at the time of divorce, and dismissed so that they cannot be resurrected.

The background

Mrs Wyatt and Mr Vince married in 1981, had a child in 1983 and separated soon after.

Mr Vince lived as a traveller for a number of years but later became a multi-millionaire as a result of the success of his green energy business which is now worth at least £57million.

When their son was 18 he moved to live with his father and work in the business.  Up until then there seems to have been virtually no financial support from Mr Vince despite Mrs Wyatt approaching the Child Support Agency and the husband through solicitors.

The wind power company which started to make substantial profits in 1997, was “generating” almost £500,000 per year by 2001.

Mrs Wyatt’s financial claim

In 2011, some 20 years after the divorce, Mrs Wyatt decided to make a claim for financial support against her ex-husband.

With 20 years gone by, the case was so old that the Court could not find its original file and neither Mrs Wyatt or Mr Vince had any copy documents apart from their final divorce document – the Decree Absolute. 

Initially Mrs Wyatt claims were proceeding normally although the court had rubbed salt into wounds by ordering the husband to finance her legal team.  Mr Vince was not happy and succeeded in the Court of Appeal in getting her claims dismissed without a hearing. The main ground for this was the 20 year delay.  

The result

The ex-wife of a former new-age traveller who later became multi-millionaire wind farm entrepreneur has been told she can bring a claim for financial support from his fortune more than 30 years after their marriage broke down.

The Supreme Court have decided that Mrs Wyatt can bring  a claims for financial support from his fortune based on need and contributions.  There was however a feeling that her current claims were far too high.

The case is likely to turn on the weight that the Court puts on the wife’s very substantial delay and the wealth being generated long after they separated.  That’s against the lack of financial support from Mr Vince, and the unmatched contribution to the family made by the wife as the main carer for their son and her child from a previous relationship, who was treated as a child of the family. 

View from a family lawyer

I agree with the Supreme Court that the wife may succeed in claiming a modest amount of money – perhaps a small mortgage free property.   (The costs of the case to date probably exceed this).

This case clearly highlights that if you do not get these types of financial claims dismissed at the time of Divorce and your spouse has not remarried, then claims can come back to haunt you – particularly if you have been very successful in the meantime.

Posted on May 11, 2015

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