Dale Vince met Kathleen Wyatt when they were both students. They married in 1981, lived as New Age travellers and had a son who stayed with Ms Wyatt when the couple divorced.
In 1995, Mr Vince set up a green energy company called Ecotricity. He is now thought to be worth around £107 million. Ms Wyatt took legal action against Mr Vince in 2011. He appealed against her on the basis that the claim was too late.
Ms Wyatt said she suffered financial hardship whilst raising their son
Lord Wilson, who delivered the Supreme Court’s ruling, said that Ms Wyatt’s contribution to the welfare of the family had to be taken into account. He noted that she had experienced 16 years of hardship when she was raising their son. Lord Wilson said Ms Wyatt had a legally recognisable claim that was not an abuse of process.
Gillian Graveson is a Partner at Birchall Blackburn Law with over 25 years’ experience. She specialises in family law and takes a particular interest in financial issues. Gillian said:
“This landmark case confirms there is no time limit for ex-spouses to seek financial settlement. If the parties do not ensure their financial claims are dismissed at the time of the divorce, they could face legal action many years later.”
Strict time limits are applied to compensation claims in other areas of law. No such time limits have been defined in family cases, leaving the parties open to future legal action. This case confirms that money earned after the divorce can still be the subject of a claim.
Signing a financial agreement can help overcome the problem
When divorcing, both parties should agree that the financial arrangements at the time of the divorce will be final. This means neither party will have any further claim if a binding financial agreement is entered into at that time.
However, if no such agreement is signed, any money made in the future could be the subject of a claim by the ex-spouse, as this Ecotricity millionaire experienced.
In the case of Ms Wyatt and Mr Vince, there was no paperwork to formalise their financial affairs. The Supreme Court stressed that there was no guarantee that Ms Wyatt’s claim would succeed. However, they felt there was a very real prospect that she might be awarded a relatively modest amount.
Divorce is a difficult and stressful time for both parties. There’s a multitude of factors that must be taken into account, particularly if there are children involved and our family law experts will provide advice and guidance on your finances.
Where possible, we will help you to negotiate a financial agreement, so both you and your partner know where you stand now and in future. If this is not possible, our experienced team will help you to achieve a fair settlement in court. Contact us for an honest assessment and advice on 0800 614 722 or 0333 321 2192 from a mobile.