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16 August, 2021

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Financial claim – 20 years after divorce, leaving the door ajar

Posted by worthingtons in News

A Supreme Court decision has highlighted the need for financial settlement orders on divorce to prevent claims after Decree Absolute.

In Wyatt v Vince, the court ruled that the ex-wife of energy supplier Ecotricity’s founder could proceed with a claim against her former husband 20 years after their divorce, even though they were both penniless travellers living a ‘new-age’ lifestyle when they separated and ordered the husband to pay the wife’s legal costs. The wife took the husband to court seeking £2m, claiming he failed to provide her with financial support while he developed his business.

The ruling confirms that anyone without a financial order has potential to bring a claim against the an ex-spouse, as the ruling makes it clear that the power to strike out family proceedings does not exist, although applications will be considered on a case by case basis.

Currently divorcing couples can obtain a Decree Absolute without financial order and the case is a salient reminder that all financial matters should be recorded in a court order to prevent opportunist claims years after divorce from a former spouse. Financial orders also allow divorcing couples to be able to plan their future finances without fear of a future claim and ensure financial independence.

Increase in financial claims in 2015

Data collated by Cardiff-based Hugh James records an increase in the number of number of divorcees returning to the courts to improve on their divorce settlements after Decree Absolute. It is thought that the figures doubled last year with a very significant increase in 2013. The increase is thought to be attributable to rising assets values and an increase in income, whereas following the financial crisis in 2008, there was a significant drop in the number of claims as separating couples tried to divide up assets informally to keep their legal costs down.

The high profile case of Wyatt and Vince in March this year has also encouraged more divorcees to pursue claims after divorce. Many couples did not record their arrangements in a financial court order and have been able to return to the court to have previous arrangements reviewed.

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