The case of Vince v Wyatt shows how divorcees can face financial claims many years after they split.
Dale Vince claimed he had none of his current wealth when he split from his wife Kathleen Wyatt in 1992. The couple separated after only three years of marriage and neither had any money or assets at the time. Life went on and both of them had other relationships.
After the pair divorced Mr Vince, 51, took up a nomadic existence as a New Age traveller. He started up a wind energy business which eventually developed into a huge green energy company called Ecotricity Limited. The company supplies energy to more than 70,000 customers and had a turnover of more than £44m in 2010-2011.
Mr Vince, who now lives in an 18th century fort in Stroud worth more than £3m, has been forced to fight his ex wife’s claim for maintenance after the High Court refused to strike out her claim for financial support and ordered him to pay £125,000 towards her legal costs.
It will come as a great surprise to many readers to hear that it is perfectly possible to apply for a financial order years after a divorce provided that the applicant’s rights to make such claims have not been explicitly dismissed and they have not remarried. However, even if the person applying for the order has remarried then they can still pursue a claim if they had given notice of their intention to do so before remarrying.
Mr Vince applied for an order that the wife’s resurrected claim for financial provision should be struck out or dismissed by the court. That application was refused by the court at first but was allowed on appeal. As a result, the wife was not allowed to pursue an order for financial provision.Couples should never assume that just because neither of them has any assets at the time of the divorce that there is no need to get a financial order. A clean break Consent Order is a must. This is a formal legally binding Court document which dismisses the right for ex-spouses to ask for more money from each other in the future. Without a clean break Consent Order in place, if you win the lottery, receive an inheritance, or simply get a better job and start earning more, your ex-spouse might be able to claim a share of your new found wealth.
Once drafted, approved and signed by both parties the clean break Consent Order is submitted to the Court for approval. The procedure is very straightforward and does not involve either party attending court in most cases.
People who are using DIY divorce packages might overlook this requirement, leaving them at risk of future financial claims.