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Delayed Divorce Battle Makes History

It makes an interesting story. New Age Travellers Kathleen Wyatt and Dale Vince meet, get married in 1981 and have a baby boy. Dale moves out a year later.

In 1992 several years after the split Kathleen divorces Dale. Because they had little or no assets at the time of separation, no "financial order" is made as part of the divorce. Kathleen takes custody of their son and raises him on her own, taking jobs fruit picking, but living largely on benefits. Her current home, described as damp and badly heated, is a former council house in Monmouth, south Wales.

In stark contrast Dale’s story post divorce is one of rags to riches. It all begins at the Glastonbury Festival when he rigs up an old pylon into a wind-powered telephone. This paves the way to the founding of Ecotricity in 1995 which is now Britain’s leading green energy supplier. Green energy tycoon Dale, awarded an OBE in 2004, is currently worth an estimated £107million.

In 2011, almost twenty years after their divorce, Kathleen decides to take legal action against her wealthy ex-husband. She believes she is entitled to a £1.9m payout. Dale argues that his ex wife has lodged the claim to late.

However in March, five Supreme Court Justices unanimously rule that Kathleen’s case should proceed.

What it means for other couples

This is a landmark decision and a wake up call to all divorcing couples to make sure that they have a separate financial order in place to prevent any further claims.

Family Law specialist, Sarah Finnis explains: “With there currently being no time limit during which a financial claim has to be made this leaves the door open for an ex-spouse to make a financial claim at some future point. The way to protect against this is to ensure a separate financial order is obtained dismissing or restricting those claims. This is a straightforward procedure but many couples are against it because of the additional cost, a false economy given the longer term implications.”

As a result of the ruling, divorces will have to be undertaken much more carefully in future, especially when the splitting couples are young and have potentially lucrative careers ahead of them. It will be more important than ever to seek good legal advice from a qualified family lawyer.

It’s important to point out that the Supreme Court ruling doesn’t mean Kathleen Wyatt will be successful in her action. However, lawyers are concerned that the ruling could spark a rush of financial claims from ex-spouses, even when the divorce took place decades ago.

For further advice on financial orders, please contact the family law team.

Before relying on this commentary please read the Reliance on information posted section in our Terms of Website Use in our Legal section. Please note that specialist advice should be taken in relation to any specific queries and the information above is provided for general information purposes only.

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