Claim against multi-millionaire ex to worry many, say law experts

Coalville’s leading law firm has warned people in the region to ensure their divorces are completed correctly, after a woman whose marriage broke down over 30 years ago won the right to seek payments from her multi-millionaire ex-husband

Kathryn Hicklin of QualitySolicitors Mander Cruickshank said the case showed how many people who divorce don’t realise that they remain open to future financial claims unless a ‘clean break’ order is made.

“This case demonstrates how important it is to obtain a financial clean break at the same time as the divorce. It is alarming how many people don’t do this,” she warned.

“Just by getting divorced you don’t end the potential for your ex to have a share of your future wealth, so even if you haven’t much money at the moment a final order creating a clean break on finances should be made,” she warned.

“This illustrates how cut price divorces without full legal advice on related financial issues could lead to disaster,” she added.

“There will be many people in the region nervous having read this, as there will also be those eager to act who feel they are entitled to more of an ex spouse’s wealth.”

The case centres on Kathleen Wyatt who has been given permission by the Supreme Court to lodge a belated claim against Dale Vince, the founder of energy company Ecotricity, who she formally divorced in 1992, having split up from him several years beforehand to bring up their child alone.

Wyatt who brought up their son is claiming £1.9m from the relationship with Vince who has since re-married and is according to press reports worth £57m.

In a unanimous decision, five justices of the Supreme Court said the family court could not strike out Wyatt’s claim without full consideration of the issues, but warned Wyatt she faces “formidable difficulties” in seeking to establish that any financial order should be made in her favour because of the very long delay, and the fact that the relationship was short.

“She may, the Supreme Court said, be able to rely on her much greater contribution to the upbringing of the couple’s child over many years, a factor which they said could justify a financial order for a comparatively modest sum,” added Ms Hicklin.

Wyatt will now have to continue her battle by returning to the high court to pursue her claim.

“This ruling highlights the opportunity for anyone without a completed financial order to bring a claim against their ex-spouse regardless of how long ago they parted,” said Ms Hicklin.

“This shows the importance of ensuring that all financial matters are finalised at the same time as the divorce by obtaining a final clean break order,” she said.

She said that it is unprecedented to hear of a claim being so long after a break up, but the court has ruled that because there was no financial order and no time limit in family law for making a financial order, there was absolutely nothing to prevent the claim from being successful.

Now the high court will meet to decide how much she should receive bearing in mind current law.

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