‘This could signal open season for people who had brief relationships a quarter of a century ago… it’s mad in my opinion.’
This is a statement made by Dale Vince, the wealthy owner of a green energy company who made his millions several years after divorcing his wife, Kathleen Wyatt. But in 2011 she presented him with a claim for financial remedies.
Earlier this month, the Family Division of the High Court awarded Ms Wyatt a £300,000 lump sum as part of a final settlement, even though her divorce from Mr Vince was finalised back in 1992.
At the time of their decree absolute, the couple had so few assets, they did not bother to make a financial settlement. In the ensuing years, Mr Vince’s financial standing changed radically and today he owns a business worth an estimated £57 million.
Mr Vince’s attempt to strike out his ex-wife’s claim failed in the first instance, but he successfully appealed in the Court of Appeal. However, that ruling was overturned in the Supreme Court, which allowed Ms Wyatt’s claim to proceed.
In addition to a £300,000 lump sum, the High Court awarded Ms Wyatt £200,000 towards her costs, on top of the £125,000 costs award made to her in December 2012.
Despite failing to stop the claim, Mr Vince’s lawyers say the outcome represents a victory for their client, as Ms Wyatt had sought at least £1.9 million as a settlement.
Unlike in the civil courts, which have a six-year cut off for bringing claims, there is no time limit for bringing a financial claim in the family courts.
Gaby Hardwicke Senior Partner David Young said: “The case highlights the importance of resolving all claims at the time of separation. To do otherwise is to leave things to chance and risk nasty surprises further down the line. Anyone going through a divorce or separation should always undertake a financial and legal audit with a competent professional in order to identify possible outcomes and make informed choices. An experienced solicitor will help clients avoid the traps so that they can plan ahead with confidence and certainty.”
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