It is never too late!
If you do not have an order from the court dealing with the financial arrangements on divorce, the door remains open for either party to apply to the court for financial provision at a later date irrespective of the time that has elapsed since the divorce took place. This means that if couples agree between them who will keep what in terms of the matrimonial assets, it is essential that the agreement is incorporated into a consent order endorsed by the court.
In a landmark decision in the case of Wyatt v Vince the Supreme Court ruled yesterday that Mrs Wyatt can proceed with a claim against Mr Vince, her former husband, even though they divorced over 20 years ago.
Mr Vince and Mrs Wyatt married in 1981. Mrs Wyatt had a child from a former relationship and they had a son together. Whilst they were together they lived on state benefits in straitened circumstances. They separated in 1984 and for the next 8 years Mr Vince lived a “new age” traveller’s lifestyle and was not in a position to make any financial contribution for the children. They divorced in 1992 and 3 years later Mr Vince set up the hugely successful company, Ecotricity, now one of the UK’s biggest green energy companies. Penniless at the time of the divorce, Mr Vince is purported to now be worth £107M.
Mrs Wyatt is claiming £2M. Although the court has not ruled on what sum, if any, will be awarded to her. At this stage the judgment simply gives Mrs Wyatt a right to be heard on the issue so many years after the divorce and it warns of the “formidable difficulties” she faces. It is likely that any award she does eventually get will be to reflect the contribution she has made by bringing up the children of the family through very hard times.
The ruling appears to pave the way for anyone without a completed financial order to bring a claim against an ex-spouse regardless of how long ago they divorced. In reality any delay is likely to be reflected in the decision made by the court, but it does highlight the importance of obtaining a finance order even in circumstances where there is little, if anything, to divide between the parties.