Understandably much coverage has been given to the Supreme Court case of Vince v Wyatt. In this case Ms Wyatt and Mr Vince were married in 1981 and separated in 1984 – their divorce was completed on 26 October 1992. For around 8 years after the divorce Mr Vince pursued a new-age travelling lifestyle. It was fair to say that the parties were not rich.
During the late 1990’s Mr Vince's green energy business took off and he eventually became a multi-millionaire whilst Ms Wyatt’s financial means were modest. But they weren’t married anymore so what’s the problem? The problem was that whilst the parties got divorced there was no evidence that they had effected what is known as a financial “clean break.” This is an order which prevents a former spouse from making a financial claim against the other in the future.
In 2011 Ms Wyatt made an application to the Family Court for financial provision in the form of a lump sum. Initially Ms Wyatt was successful in the High Court. Mr Vince then appealed to the court of appeal and he was successful. Predictably Ms Wyatt appealed to the Supreme Court and her arguments found favour. Her application has now been remitted to the High Court for a decision on what lump sum should payable to her – even though Ms Wyatt will “face formidable difficulties in seeking to establish that a financial order should be made in her favour.”
The lesson to be learned is this:
If you divorce, your former spouse may be able to make financial claims against you in the future if you do not have a financial “clean break.”
Is a clean break appropriate for me?
Ultimately this is a decision for the court under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 but the options can and should be addressed in mediation.