Joanne Major, Principal and female lawyer of Major Family Law, Newcastle and Hexham’s best divorce and children’s specialists, comments in the North East Times last month the Supreme Court heard a legal argument about an issue that could affect a great many people if they have been divorced in the past.
Mr Dale Vince OBE married Ms Wyatt in 1981, she had a daughter from a previous relationship and they had a son together. They were only together for about 3 years, separating in 1984, although Ms Wyatt says that she remained hopeful that they would reconcile. They had no assets at the time of their marriage or separation. Eventually a decree absolute bought their marriage to an end in October 1992. Ms Wyatt never married but had 2 children with a subsequent partner. Mr Vince did remarry in 2006 and had a child with his new wife.
In 2011, the Ms Wyatt suddenly made a financial application against Mr Vince, 27 years after their separation and almost 20 years after the decree absolute bought their marriage to an end.
MS Wyatt was successful at that stage in securing an order for Mr Vince to pay £125,000 to her solicitors, so that she can pursue a financial claim against him.
Mr Vince is now a multi-millionaire, his entire wealth was created by him after the decree absolute. He applied to the High Court to strike out her claim, he says that she shouldn’t be allowed to make a claim against him because of the length of time that has passed from the end of their marriage. He was unsuccessful in the High Court but he appealed and the Court of Appeal agreed with him as her case had “no real prospect of success”.
Ms Wyatt was given permission for the case to be heard in the Supreme Court, before 4 men and 1 woman. Ms Wyatt’s team submitted that the case should never have been struck out. She bought up two children of the family on her own and that contribution alone should be sufficient to make a claim against Mr Vince. Her lawyers made the point that she is entitled to make a claim against Mr Vince as a result of their marriage, despite the number of years that have passed and despite the fact that he had no money at the time they divorced.
Mr Vince’s team don’t think that Ms Wyatt’s claim has any chance of success because of the long delay which they say amounts to an abuse of process. Whilst many legal claims are time limited, financial claims after divorce are not. These claims exist until they are dismissed, which can only be by order of the court. The only other way that Ms Wyatt’s claims could be terminated is if she remarried before making the claims, which she did not.
This case could impact on anyone, who like Mr Vince, has become wealthy after divorce without first dismissing the ex-partner’s financial claims. The arguments are in; all we can do is wait for the outcome.
Joanne Major is the Principal at Major Family Law, the Divorce and Family Law Specialists, 12 West Road, Ponteland, Newcastle upon Tyne. T: 01661 82 45 82 www.majorfamilylaw.co.uk. Twitter: @majorfamilylaw