Divorce, but no financial agreement: are you at risk?

A recent landmark Supreme Court decision has raised considerable media attention, and even surprise, following a ruling that a woman is able to proceed with an application to claim cash from her ex-husband notwithstanding their divorce nearly 20 years ago.

The couple met in their early 20’s as students and married in 1981. They had a son and lived a New Age traveler lifestyle prior to separating. At the time of their divorce in 1992, neither had any considerable assets of any nature and financial matters were not addressed at all.

20 years later, Mr Vince had become a very successful businessman, and a self made millionaire in the renewable energy market. No doubt he was very surprised to receive notice of a court application for a financial claim from Mrs. Wyatt in 2011, claiming a sum of £1.9 million, some 19 years after the divorce proceedings had concluded.

However, Mr Vince”s efforts to have the application kicked into touch on the basis of being out of time were dealt a fatal blow by the Supreme Court. The court ruled unanimously that the claim should go ahead and was legally recognisable. Described by Mr. Vince as “mad”, the decision is, however, a timely reminder of the importance of getting financial affairs in order at the time of the divorce.

Family and divorce expert Karen Beevers, of Coleshill solicitors Evans Derry, comments:-

“ There is a common misconception that a divorce concludes any financial claims between husbands and wives.” Clients are often shocked when I explain to them that financial claims are ongoing until they are terminated by a court order, despite the passage of time passing since a divorce being concluded. It is important to note in this case that the Supreme Court has not determined the merits of Mrs. Wyatt’s claim, but has confirmed that it is legally recognisable and should proceed. To avoid such uncertainty in the future and to avoid the feeling of looking over one’s shoulder in years to come, I always advise people to sort out a financial settlement at the time of the divorce. That way, all can move forward with the next chapter of their lives with peace of mind.”