Ending a marriage does not automatically end financial claims between spouses.

The recent case of Wyatt v Vince has highlighted the possibility of a former spouse claiming a financial settlement from their ex many years after the parties have divorced if the financial matters have not been dealt with effectively

In Wyatt v Vince, the parties married in 1981 and divorced in 1992.   After the separation the husband did not financially support his wife or their son as he was not in a financial position to do so.

The husband has since founded one of the UK’s largest green energy companies.  He is said to be worth £107m.  His now ex-wife brought a financial claim against him on the basis that she was the sole carer for their son in extremely low financial conditions and that, as her former spouse, her ex-husband should meet her financial needs.  Her claim is for £1.9 million in order to purchase a better home for herself and her family and a fund out of which to maintain herself for the rest of her life.

The Supreme Court has said that Ms Wyatt’s arguments will be heard by the court.  The decision of the court as to whether Ms Wyatt’s financial claim is successful is yet to be seen.  The key factor however, no matter what the eventual outcome, is that divorce alone does not prevent either spouse making a financial claim against the other at any time in the future.

Despite the frenzied media attention, the case of Wyatt v Vince is not new law.  In order to ensure that former spouses cannot bring any further financial claims against each other in the future, financial arrangements should be settled at the same time as the divorce is proceeding.  If the claims are not addressed and dismissed they will remain open.  A document called a Consent Order should be drawn up, signed by the parties and approved by the court.  This should include provisions to prevent any future financial claims (commonly referred to as a clean break), thus avoiding the situation that has arisen in Wyatt v Vince.

If you are contemplating a divorce or separation it is important to seek legal advice on financial arrangements at the time and advice on how to ensure that both parties are protected against financial claims being made in the future.  To find out more, contact the family team at Leeds Day on 0844 567 2222 or email family@leedsday.co.uk.

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