A recent case to hit the news headlines involved Mrs Wyatt against her ex-husband Mr Vince. The claim was brought by Mrs Wyatt for financial settlement against her ex-husband. The unusual circumstances of this case being that the marriage broke down more than 30 years ago. The ex-husband, who is now a multi-millionaire businessman, acquired his wealth sometime after the parties divorced. Furthermore it was a relatively short marriage of just two years before they separated.
The wife has now proceeded with an application to the courts to seek a claim for some of her ex-husband’s capital. She has not been successful (yet!); however, she has been successful in defeating the husband’s application to strike-out her claim. The courts, at this stage, have decided the claim should not be struck-out as full consideration will need to be given to all of the issues.
Therefore, is this case likely to open the flood-gates for divorced parties to pursue a financial claim against their ex-spouse and wealth acquired post-separation 10/20/30 years after separation? It is unlikely. As ever, with newspaper headlines, the leading line could very well be misinterpreted as ex-wife successfully obtains settlement monies from ex-husband. This is not the case. The court made it quite clear that it was simply allowing the ex-wife’s claim to proceed so all the facts of the case could be properly considered. However, the courts, in providing judgement, made it quite clear to the wife that she faced ‘formidable difficulties’ in seeking to establish a financial order. The difficulty would arise from the fact that there has been such a delay in her proceeding with a claim and because the relationship, itself, lasted only for a short period of time.
However, this case does provide a stark warning to couples separating. To obtain a divorce, in itself, does not prevent a claim being made at a later date from an ex-spouse. A passage of time, no matter how long, does not prevent a claim from an ex-spouse being made. The case highlights the importance of ensuring that all financial issues are resolved and finalised in a properly drafted court order, upon divorce.