New Supreme Court ruling offers a warning to ‘Sort Your Finances Out’ during a Divorce

Smith Partnership, one of largest firms of solicitors in the East Midlands, is advising people in Derby to be careful when going through a divorce to sort out the financial package at the same time as a Decree Absolute. Many people do not complete this process and a new Supreme Court ruling has just awarded financial settlement to a lady over 20 years after her divorce. 

The Supreme Court in London has just announced their Judgement in the longstanding case of Wyatt v Vince*. Kathleen Wyatt brought a financial claim against her husband Dale Vince more than 20 years after they divorced. The couple who separated in the mid 1980’s divorced in 1992, however although the divorce was finalised with the Decree Absolute and the marriage was brought to an end, they did not finalise the financial aspects of the divorce. 

Ruth Jones, Partner and Head of Family from Smith Partnership said: “What people do not realise is that the divorce process itself does not bring to an end the financial claims arising from a marriage that is a completely separate process. Financial claims can only be brought to an end in the making of a separate Court Order. As Mrs Wyatt and Mr Vince had no money at the time of the divorce, it would appear that neither of them decided to bother putting the Financial Order into place.” 

The facts of the case revealed that although Mrs Wyatt’s life continued in much the same way, she had apparently been dependant on state benefit on and off since the time of their divorce, Mr Vince’s fortune has been transformed after he set up a highly successful green energy company and is now a multimillionaire in his own right. 

Therefore in 2012, well over 20 years after the separation, Mrs Wyatt brought a financial claim asking for a share in Mr Vince’s wealth. It was never disputed that all of his wealth had been built up after their divorce. 

Although the award to Mrs Wyatt made was far less than she asked for, the Judges seemingly took the view that she should perhaps have enough money to buy a property. This ruling does send out a very clear message that irrespective of the amount of time that passes between a divorce, if you do not sort out your finances and put into place a Financial Order, then you will always be at risk of a financial claim being made against either party. 

Ruth concluded: “Substantial wealth generated after a divorce may be rare but is not unheard of, it could apply to large lottery wins, large inheritances or through business skills and acumen. 

“The message is clear from my team at Smith Partnership is, if you want to move on with your life following a divorce then it makes sense that not only do you get an Order ending your marriage, you also need an Order ending the financial claims.” 

If you need any advice regarding a divorce please call the Family team at Smith Partnership on 0330 123 1229.