This week saw a landmark judgement handed down by the Supreme Court in a case referred to as Wyatt -v- Vince . The case involved Ms Wyatt, the appellant and Mr Vince, the respondent, who were married on 18 December 1981. They had one son together and Ms Wyatt had a daughter from a previous relationship. The parties separated in 1984. Following separation, Mr Vince pursued a travelling lifestyle unable to make a financial provision for Ms Wyatt and the children.
Decree Absolute was granted on 26 October 1992 dissolving the marriage. In the following years Ms Wyatt went on to have two more children and Mr Vince’s green energy business began to grow, eventually seeing him become a multi-millionaire.
In 2011, some 19 years after Decree Absolute had been pronounced, Ms Wyatt made an application to the Court for financial provision by way of a lump sum under the Matrimonial Causes Act. Mr Vince opposed this application and applied to the Court for her application to be struck out, initially a High Court Judge agreed with Ms Wyatt and made an Order for Payment to be made to Ms Wyatt however Mr Vince successfully appealed this decision in the Court of Appeal.
The most recent decision of the Supreme Court supports Ms Wyatt and has directed that she must be permitted to pursue her application in order that a Judge may consider her entitlement to provision despite the time that has passed since the parties divorced. The Court must now give full consideration to Ms Wyatt’s claim for a financial order. Ms Wyatt’s case will undoubtedly be based upon her contribution as a mother, in the upbringing of the children over many years which she will say enabled Mr Vince’s energy business to grow.
The case highlights the risk to divorcing couples of not resolving financial matters at the time of their divorce; those who are embarking upon divorce proceedings are encouraged to obtain legal advice in relation to the financial obligations as many do not appreciate that financial obligations begin automatically upon marriage but are not ended by Divorce. Even when there are no assets to consider at the time of the divorce, as in the case of Ms Wyatt and Mr Vince, it is in the interest of every couple to consider whether an order should be made to dismiss future claims.
Gemma Stevens is a Solicitor specialising in all aspects of family law at WBW Solicitors. Contact Gemma by phone, 01803 202404, email her via firstname.lastname@example.org or visit wbw.co.uk