Can Financial Claims Be Made Years After Divorce?

Year Published: 2016

There is no time limit for former spouses to apply to the court for financial claims following their divorce provided their claim is lodged before remarriage.

The recent case of Kathleen Wyatt and Dale Vince shows the difficulties that can occur if a financial order is not obtained when a couple divorce.

Kathleen Wyatt first brought proceedings against her former husband Dale Vince, who is the founder of the wind power firm Ecotricity, five years ago.

The couple met as students in their early 20s and married in 1991. They had one child and lived a new age traveller lifestyle before they divorced.

Mr Vince set up his company in 1995 after the parties had separated. He has an OBE and is estimated to be worth £107m.

However, since the original proceedings Ms Wyatt sought to claim just under £2m.

The Supreme Court Justices had earlier ruled that her claim was legally recognisable and not an abuse of power. In the Supreme Court ruling Lord Wilson said that Ms Wyatt had raised their son through 16 years of real hardship.

Recently the claim was settled with Mr Vince paying £300,000 to avoid any further court proceedings.

At the time this couple separated they appear to have had no assets. A lot of couples in those circumstances don’t want to pay the costs involved in obtaining a financial order. There must be no doubt that the costs in this case were extremely high and perhaps this matter could have been sorted out five years ago. When a couple separate they can apply to the court if financial matters are agreed for a consent order providing them with a clean financial break. This then gives them security for the future. However, there is no guidance in statute or case law at the moment about when is a reasonable time for bringing a financial claim. In this case, the assets were acquired after the parties had separated. It is very important to consider, when a couple separate, resolving financial issues to avoid problems like this in the future.

For more information on financial claims or any other family matters, please contact our Family team on 0161 475 7676 or email [email protected].

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