On March 11th the Supreme Court decided that Kathleen Wyatt, 55, should have the right to claim on the fortune earned by her former husband even though he gained that after they divorced over 20 years ago.
There is now a fear that Courts will be inundated with claims from divorced wives whose former husbands have prospered in the years following the Divorce so, are wealthy ex husbands at risk?
The background to this landmark case is that Mr. Vince was penniless when he & Miss Wyatt were married but went on to found Ecotricity, a wind energy firm now worth an estimated £57 million after they divorced. He has already had to pay out a sum in excess of £500,000 to cover legal Costs.
They were together for two years and had a son, Dane, in 1983, who now lives and works with his father. Mr. Vince has flourished since the divorce but, Miss Wyatt has spent many years living on Traveller sites and in homeless shelters.
She now lives in a rundown former council house with her unemployed son Robin Wyatt, 21, her unemployed daughter Jessie, 18, Jessie's jobless boyfriend Ashley Lloyd, 24, and their three-month-old daughter Scarlett. She has another daughter currently in Prison.
Miss Wyatt has taken jobs picking fruit, and since the mid-1990s lived largely on benefits. By contrast, her former husband lives in a £3 million 18th century fort near Stroud, Gloucestershire, with Dane, his second wife and their five-year-old son.
Miss Wyatt, originally sought a payout of £1.9 million having first lodged her claim in 2011, more than quarter of a century after they separated. The County Court initially allowed her claim to proceed only for it to be blocked by the Court of Appeal on the basis that it had "no real prospect of success" & was an "abuse of process".
Yesterday the Supreme Court overturned that decision, making it clear that there was no time limit in law for spouses to make a claim for financial provision. Strict time limits apply to Personal Injury Claims (3 years) & Claims based on Professional Negligence (6 years).
The Judges made it clear that Miss Wyatt's case, which will now be heard by the Family Court, faces "formidable difficulties"
- because of her delay in making a claim
- and the fact that she played no part in his later success.
Her claim for a £1.9m payout has been dismissed as out of the question.
Sam Bushell Head of Family Law at Brown Turner Ross commented:
"This is an unusual Case which is going to agitate a lot of couples who divorced years ago and will no doubt lead to many Claims being brought by wives who want a share of fortunes amassed by thier ex husbands in the period since they were divorced. However, people should not get too excited because the amount Miss Wyatt will receive could be very low & bear no relation to what it would have been if Mr. Dane had prospered during the marriage and her claim had been promptly made when Divorce proceedings were being dealt with.
So how does a husband avoid the risk of this happening to him?
Quite simply by making sure that all possible Claims relating to finances or property are dealt with comprehensively in Divorce Proceedings and/or are dismissed. Our Department regularly acts for Divorce Clients with high asset values and negotiating a settlement of these claims is something we specialise in, especially Pension Funds which are often overlooked."
If you need advice from a Divorce Solicitor in Liverpool or Southport call us any time on 0800 195 7517.