The recent court case of Vince v Wyatt has highlighted the danger of failing to dismiss financial claims on divorce.
Divorce is inevitably stressful and in these times of austerity people will often want to settle financial matters amicably and with the minimum of expense. Often they will try to save money by agreeing how they are going to divide their assets without consulting a Solicitor. Unfortunately, many people wrongly think they do know what the law says and a recent Supreme Court case shows that leaving loose ends can come back and bite later on.
The widely reported case of Wyatt v Vince shows what can happen when the door is inadvertently left open. Ms Wyatt and Mr Vince were married in 1984 and divorced in 1992. They had few assets at the time and so they didn’t bother to finalise their financial settlement in a court order when they divorced.
However, fast forward 23 years and having set up a green energy company with a turnover of £44million, Mr Vince was living in a £3million fort in the Cotswolds and the Supreme Court ruled that despite the couple having been divorced for 23 years, Ms Wyatt can now bring a claim against him for a financial settlement arising from their marriage.
The amount of the claim has yet to be decided but full account will be taken of Mr Vince’s present financial circumstances not those at the time of the divorce. In other words Ms Wyatt may well succeed in claiming against the wealth that he has generated since they went their separate ways.
This case showcases the importance of filing a ‘clean break Consent Order’. Without this, both parties are at risk of having to financially support an ex-spouse indefinitely.
Here at GHW we have noticed that many clients assume that obtaining a Decree Absolute of divorce (the document which finally ends the marriage) dismissed the parties’ respective financial claims against each other and that the matter is concluded. However in reality the only way in which financial claims can be dismissed is through a clean break order approved by the Court. People using DIY divorce packages from the internet are particularly vulnerable to this and are potentially at risk of future financial claims arising from the divorce they wrongly assumed was done and dusted.
The moral of the story is that if you are separating or divorcing, you really can’t afford not to consult a Solicitor. At GHW we appreciate that money is often tight and we offer specialist advice at a fair price. If you wish to discuss this further please contact our Family Department on 01706 82 7042.