In May 2013, the Court of Appeal allowed Mr Vince’s appeal against the dismissal of his application to strike out his former wife Ms Wyatt’s claim for financial remedy, which she issued some 18 years after the parties were divorced. However, the Supreme Court has held today that Ms Wyatt’s claim should proceed to a short hearing.
The couple married in 1981 and lived a New Age traveller lifestyle, separated in the mid-1980s and divorced in 1992. The couple had a son together and Ms Wyatt had a daughter from a previous relationship whom Mr Vince had always treated as a child of the family. Upon separation Ms Wyatt brought up the children in difficult financial circumstances and Mr Vince was not in a position to make any substantial contribution for them. In contrast Mr Vince joined the traveller community and spent around a decade living in a converted Fire Engine, attending New Age festivals and anti-nuclear arms protests.
In the mid-1990s Mr Vince began a business career and built up his company Ecotricity Group Ltd, a green energy business which is now worth an estimated £57 million. For Ms Wyatt’s part, she and the children lived what the court described as ‘an unsettled lifestyle’ subsisting on earnings from low-wage jobs and state benefits. The Supreme Court judgment referred to the fact that Ms Wyatt had primary responsibility for the children which had made her life very difficult and questioned whether there was any reason why, now that he had come into a certain amount of money, she and the children should not have the opportunity of benefitting to some extent form it.
The Supreme Court ruling does not mean that Ms Wyatt’s application will be successful, merely that her application will proceed in the High Court. Lord Wilson explained that Ms Wyatt’s application would face difficulties but the fact that she gave a much greater contribution to the upbringing of the couple’s children over many years may justify a financial order for a modest sum in comparison with the £1.9 million which she is seeking.
This judgment could open the door for many to seek financial settlements years after the marriage has broken down and it is therefore becoming increasingly important for all financial matters to be finalised at the time of divorce and a court order obtained. This case highlights that it is crucial that separating partners who do not have financial orders in place review their situation as they may now face claims against them based on wealth acquired after the divorce.
Our specialist team can advise on applications for financial provision. Consulting our specialist lawyers in our Altrincham or Manchester offices is a great first step. Please contact us on 0161 927 3118 for a free 20 minute consultation.