Many couples are reluctant to spend money on finalising their finances on divorce. This is often the case when a couple has limited or no assets whatsoever. There is also a common misconception that once a couple are divorced, that is the end of any ties they have to each other. Despite warning clients that both parties will continue to have the right to make a financial claim against each other until the court has approved a financial settlement, many couples simply choose to ignore the advice considering a Consent Order to be an unnecessary expense.
You may have seen recent case of Wyatt v Vince in the news. This highlights why it is important to tie up all loose ends on divorce and that means dealing with finances, even if you don’t think there are any finances to deal with. The Supreme Court made it clear that Ms Wyatt had the right to bring a financial claim against Mr Vince some 23 years after they had divorced.
Ms Wyatt and Mr Vince married in 1981. They had a child of their own and Ms Wyatt had a daughter from a previous relationship who was treated as a child of the family. The couple separated in 1984. Mr Vince lived the life of a “new age traveler” for some 8 years after separation whilst Ms Wyatt brought up the children. Finances were strained and both parties had little income and Ms Wyatt had very little support from Mr Vince. The couple eventually divorced in 1992.
In the 1990s, Mr Vince went on to establish a green energy business and subsequently became a multi-millionaire. In 2011, some 19 years after divorce and 27 years after separation, Ms Wyatt decided to make an application to court for financial provision on divorce. Mr Vince cross-applied to have Ms Wyatt’s application struck out. The Supreme Court allowed Mr Wyatt’s application.
So, how can it be that Ms Wyatt could make an application to the Court so long after the parties were divorced? This ground-breaking decision reaffirms the view that there is no time-limit for seeking orders for financial provision on divorce. Sections 23(1) and 24(1) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 state that such orders may be made on granting a decree of divorce ‘or at any time thereafter’.
Although the Supreme Court allowed the application to proceed, Ms Wyatt’s application will face some difficulties due to the length of time since the marriage broke down, the standard of living the parties enjoyed at the time and the length of time the parties cohabited during the marriage.
The lesson to be learnt however is that there is no time-limit on when the application can be made. It therefore is important that, regardless of a parties income or assets at the time of a divorce, they finalise the finances also. No doubt Mr Vince now wishes he had done the same.
Giles Wilson Solicitors in Leigh-on-Sea and Rochford, Essex, offer a range of divorce services to cater for all relationships, from married couples with children to civil partnerships and cohabitation. Contact us to arrange a free 30-minute no obligation consultation with one of our expert team members.