11 March 2015
Court Rules Wife Can Claim Nearly 20 Years After Separation
In a landmark ruling today the Supreme Court, the highest Court in this country, has decided that Kathleen Wyatt could bring a financial claim against her husband Dale Vince nearly 20 years after their separation.
The couple met as students and married in 1981 during their 20s. They had a son, Dane, and lived as New Age travellers until the mid-1980s before they divorced in 1992. After that Ms Wyatt lived on benefits while Mr Vince lived in an old ambulance.
Vince made his fortune after he invented a wind turbine made from recycled materials that he used to power his caravan. In 1995, Vince launched a green energy company called Ecotricity off the back of the invention, based in Stroud. He has since appeared in the Sunday Times Rich List and developed his own electric sports car, the Nemesis.
Kathleen Wyatt, 55, first took legal action against Dale Vince in 2011. Mr Vince appealed against his ex-wife’s claim on the basis that she had lodged the claim too late. The Supreme Court has now ruled after a unanimous decision by five of its Judges that she is entitled to pursue a financial claim against her former husband.
In delivering the judgement, Lord Wilson said the Court must have regard "to the contribution of each party to the welfare of the family, including looking after the home or caring for the family".
He added that Ms Wyatt, who had latterly lived in Lowestoft, Suffolk, Sunderland and the Forest of Dean, had raised her son through "sixteen years of real hardship". He further said that her claim was "legally recognisable" and not an "abuse of process" although the £1.9m pay-out she had hoped to secure was too high an amount.
"It is obvious, even at this stage, that an award approaching that size is out of the question," he said and that there was a “real prospect” that she should get a “comparatively modest reward” from Dale Vince, even though she did not make the claim until nearly 20 years after they separated.
Divorce has never been a bar to bringing a financial claim but Courts have considered delay in making applications as a considerable factor in the past.
This case is a reminder of the importance of securing a final Divorce Financial Agreement. This would have prevented Ms Wyatt from making this claim against Mr Vince.
At Slater and Gordon our Family Solicitors always recommend, however, that people get expert legal advice at the earliest opportunity to avoid the possibility of one party disposing of assets or becoming entrenched in a position so that negotiations are more difficult.
Money concerns and the cost of instructing a Divorce Solicitor can be a concern, however our Family Solicitors offer a range of services including Fixed Price Mediation and Fixed Price Divorce.
Tara Deegan is the Family Solicitor Mediator at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Milton Keynes.
To arrange an initial consultation call us 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9055 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help you.
Slater and Gordon UK have the largest team of Family Lawyers in the country and 18 offices in London, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Liverpool, Merseyside, Bristol, Cardiff, Derby, Edinburgh, Halifax, Newcastle, Wakefield and meeting rooms in Bramhall, Cheshire and in Hull, Yorkshire.