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Avoid divorce fiasco with financial order
- AuthorSam Miles
Those who have divorced without making proper financial arrangements should take heed from a recent case which could spell a very different future. In the case of Wyatt v Vince, the court ruled that an ex-wife could proceed with a claim against her former husband who, since their divorce 20 years earlier, had turned into a successful businessman worth millions. Sam Miles, Family Partner, reviews the case and advises how divorcing couples can avoid this in their own future.
In this controversial case, Kathleen Wyatt sought to make a financial claim against her former husband, Dale Vince, who went from a New Age traveller with little money, to the multi-millionaire founder of Ecotricity, now reportedly worth £57million. They separated in 1984 after the birth of their son, and went on to divorce 8 years later. Following their separation, Ms Wyatt became a full time single mother with little income and minimal contact with Mr Vince.
“While it’s not unheard of for ex-spouses to make claims against their former partner following a divorce, the outstanding fact in this case is that this has been made over 20 years since their divorce, a significant amount of time to turn ones life around,” begins Sam. “The reason why this was allowed was the absence of a completed financial order at the time of the divorce, and that there is no time limit in family law as to when a claim can be brought.”
A financial order is used to settle or confirm the financial matters flowing from a divorce, and is a formal arrangement made in court. An order will generally include details on how assets will be divided, including cash, property, pension funds and other investments. An order can include provision for payment of lump sums, regular maintenance or pension sharing and will generally provide that no further claims can be made. Other than in limited circumstances, once an order has been made it cannot be altered. If there are no assets to split at the time of divorce, both parties can still sign a financial order agreeing not to make any future claims against each other in the future. This is known as a “clean break order”.
“There are so many situations that could change the face of your finances,” Sam continues. “One party could experience business success as Mr Vince did, or they could win the lottery, or inherit a large fortune. These are scenarios that you can’t anticipate when you divorce, which is why having a financial order is so important.”
While it has been agreed that Kathleen Wyatt can proceed with her case, the possible outcome of her claim is quite unknown at this time. Sam explains, “A claim of this nature has obvious pitfalls, including the length of time since the divorce. However, she could emphasise her greater contribution to the upbringing of their children over the last 20 years. It is unlikely however that this will see her being awarded with the £1.9million being sought.
“Of course the Courts will always look at situations such as these on a case by case basis, but we would always advise that any couples going through a divorce implement a financial order to protect them from instances such as this,” Sam concludes. “For the couples who have divorced without a financial order in place, we would urge them to review their situation. Resolution, the organisation for family lawyers is calling for legal reform in light of this case to help avoid ‘potentially opportunistic claims’ in the future.”
To find out more about the divorce process and financial orders, contact Sam and the Family team on 02380 717431 or visit their section of the website here.
This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice. All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.