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Your Local Family Law Specialists Is it ever too late to bring financial claims after divorce? by Karen Chapman A decision in the Supreme Court earlier this year has paved the way for a former spouse to bring a financial claim against her ex-husband, over 18 years after they divorced and 27 years since they separated. It is a decision which illustrates just how important it is for divorcing, and divorced couples to always obtain final settlement orders with respect to the financial claims which arise from a marriage at the time of the divorce. The ending of a marriage doesn’t bring an end to the right of either party to make a financial claim against the other. That can only be achieved by the parties to the marriage obtaining a separate court order dealing with the finances on divorce, to end financial claims both during life and on death. This can be achieved by making an application to court. If the arrangements are agreed an order can be obtained by consent on paper without the need for either party to actually attend court. I often see clients in practice who have started a DIY divorce online, who are surprised to learn that they remain at risk of because they haven’t taken the steps necessary to close the door on financial claims Nowadays, with effectively no legal aid available to assist with the legal costs of dealing with divorce it is all too easy for a financial settlement to be dealt with informally, or not at all. The former spouses in the widely reported case of Wyatt v Vince [2015] UKSC14 failed to do this and their case underlines the very considerable risks which can flow from this.

The Facts of Wyatt v Vince Kathleen Wyatt (the Wife) and Dale Vince (the Husband) met and married in 1981. At the time, neither had any assets and they lived largely on state benefits. The Wife had a daughter before the marriage, who became a child of the family, and the couple later had a child together in 1983. The Husband stated that he and the Wife separated in 1984, after only just over 2 years together. The Wife divorced the husband in 1992. For many years after the end of their relationship both parties continued to live a frugal life with minimal income and very few assets. However, in the mid 1990’s the Husband began a wind turbine company, which swiftly became and has remained extremely profitable with a value of many millions. In 2011, the Wife brought a claim against the Husband for a financial settlement, which she quantified at £1.9 million. The Wife brought this claim even though all of the Husband’s wealth was accrued long after the separation and divorce. When the case came before the Court of Appeal, the wife’s claim was struck out on the basis that there were no reasonable grounds for bringing it.

Wife would face difficulties in her claim due to: the short marriage; the period of time since it broke down; the very low standard of living of the parties during the marriage; the fact that the husband did not accrue his wealth until long after the marriage breakdown; the fact that the Wife had made no contribution to the creation of the wealth; and her long delay in bringing her claim before the court. Despite these factors the court made clear its opinion that the Wife’s claim did have a real prospect of comparatively modest success. The court also confirmed that the Wife should be entitled to an allowance, paid by the Husband, to pay her legal costs incurred in making the application as she could not reasonably secure legal advice and representation by any other means. Conclusion It is extremely risky not to obtain orders in divorce proceedings which finalise the financial settlement. Where couples do not do so they face the prospect of claims arising in the future, perhaps many years after the divorce, which will not be stopped by the court and which may well succeed.

The Wife then appealed to the Supreme Court who reversed the decision made in the Court of Appeal. It decided that it was not correct to say that there were no reasonable grounds for bringing the case without hearing evidence. The Wife will therefore now be able to pursue her claim against the Husband. The Supreme Court made clear that the

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Palmers Green & Southgate LIFE Autumn 2015  

FREE Palmers Green Community magazine. Find out what's going on in the area, historical articles, local community groups and much more . Bro...

Palmers Green & Southgate LIFE Autumn 2015  

FREE Palmers Green Community magazine. Find out what's going on in the area, historical articles, local community groups and much more . Bro...

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