Deborah Leask
Partner, Solicitor & Joint Head of Family
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Date Published:10 Mar 2016 Last Updated:28 Jul 2021

Ex wife claims husband’s wealth 31 years on – Danger of DIY divorces

Family Law

The Supreme Court judgment in Wyatt and Vince (released on 11 March 2015), is a salutary reminder that on divorce, Decree Absolute does not get rid of spouses’ financial claims against the other; these can only be dismissed through a Court order. If left open, these claims remain dormant and can be resurrected at any time; something which can prove to be extremely costly.

The facts of Vince and Wyatt are unusual; only 3 years of marital cohabitation, a poor standard of living during the relationship when they lived together as travellers in the 1980’s, the creation of huge wealth by the entrepreneurial husband through his company Ecotricity Group Ltd, set up years after the breakdown of the marriage and a 31 year delay by the wife in pursuing a financial claim against him. During the marriage they had nothing; a stark contrast to the husband’s current wealth, estimated at around £57m. By comparison, the wife survives partly on state benefits.

Despite the passage of time since the separation 31 years ago, the Supreme Court rejected the husband’s attempt to strike out the wife’s financial application, clearing the path for her to pursue what is likely to be a very sizable financial claim against him. Whilst this is likely to be limited to her needs, it highlights the importance of tying up all loose ends carefully when divorcing. The Supreme Court emphasised the potentially lifelong financial obligations which come with marriage and that there is no time limit for seeking orders for financial provision.

Given the recent large increase of DIY divorces, this is something of which litigants in person should be acutely aware if they want to avoid an unpleasant and costly bill in the future.

For further information about divorce please contact the family department at familylaw@ellisjones.co.uk.