Vince (the Husband) v Wyatt (the Wife) – can a claim be brought for financial provision years after a divorce ?
This case made the headlines recently when the Supreme Court overruled a lower Court’s decision to strike out the wife’s claim which has been brought almost 20 years after the conclusion of divorce proceedings.
Securing Decree Absolute (the Order which formally dissolves a marriage) does not prevent a husband or a wife from bringing a claim against their former spouse for financial provision (except in limited circumstances).
In this case, the parties were divorced in 1992. They had one child together and another who was treated as a ‘child of the family’. At the time of their divorce neither the Husband nor Wife had any assets. In this particular case it is not known whether any financial orders were made as part of the divorce proceedings because the court file has been mislaid but it is thought unlikely. In fact, it is not unusual, particularly where there are no assets, for the parties not to obtain an order from the Court dealing with financial claims.
This case serves as a useful reminder of the importance of obtaining a Court Order dealing with financial claims even if there are no assets because, until such time as the Court positively dismisses claims, they remain open for either party to pursue.
That was the difficulty in this case because the Husband went on to build an incredibly successful business following his divorce from the Wife and his Company alone is worth at least £57 million. The Wife brought a claim for financial provision in 2011 and also sought interim payments from the Husband. The Husband applied to the Court to have the application ‘struck out’. The Court initially refused the ‘strike out’ application and ordered interim payments to the Wife. The Husband appealed and the case was considered by the Court of Appeal who disagreed with the lower court and struck out the Wife’s claim.
The Wife then appealed and, although the Supreme Court noted the difficulties that she faced in her substantive claim, they found that the Court of Appeal was wrong to have struck the claim out. The Supreme Court reinstated it. This does not necessarily mean that the claim will be successful just that the Wife has a right for it to be properly considered by the Court.
Given the length of the marriage, the time taken to bring a claim and the fact that the Husband’s assets accrued after the separation and subsequent divorce, the Wife is likely to face real difficulties with her claim but nevertheless it is still a claim that the Husband will have to deal with as (it is assumed) no financial order was made at the time of the divorce dismissing financial claims.
For this reason it is important, even if you have reached an amicable agreement or there are no assets to be divided, that you secure an Order of the Court formally dismissing or dealing with financial claims.
If you have any questions or concerns arising out of this article or any other family matter please feel free to contact Demelza Butler or a member of our family team
Demelza Butler, Partner
T : 01473 230033
E : email@example.com