In family law, it's never really over until it's all ended!
The circumstances, rather than the actual decision, of a recent family law case has caused remarkable interest in the national media.
The case of Wyatt -v- Vince (2005) UKSC14 involved a former wife who pursued a financial claim against her ex-husband over 30 years after the breakdown of the marriage.
The former couple were married in 1981. There were two children, one born of the marriage, and the other being a young child from a previous relationship. The marriage lasted less than three years and they separated in 1984. Divorce proceedings were not concluded until 1992, but in reality the marriage had lasted only three years.Upon separation in
Upon separation in 1984, the husband embarked on a "new age" travelling lifestyle and was not able to offer any financial support at all to the wife in bringing up the children. The wife brought up the children under difficult financial circumstances.
Subsequently, the husband's fortunes improved and he went on to make a fortune through his green energy business. Ultimately, he became a millionaire and at this time his fortune is considered to be in the region of £57 million or so.
To the media and to the public it was doubtless the fact that a wife could make that application so many years after the breakdown of the marriage and that caused consternation and some considerable unrest. The media paid little attention to the technical aspect of the case.
The case should never have had to go to court at all. Financial claims arise out of the very existence of a marriage. Upon a divorce, those claims all remain capable of being pursued until they are brought to an end by way of a formal court Order. In this case, no such Order existed and, therefore, all of the claims remained.
The lessons to be learned are that whenever there is a divorce there needs to be a final Financial Order made. Without a Clean Break Order preventing any future claims, financial claims can be made many years after the breakdown of the marriage. Also, beware of ‘do it yourself’ divorces, as they do not provide for any kind of financial settlement and protection.
When considering separation, the best course of action is to seek specialist legal advice from a qualified family solicitor.