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Kathleen Wyatt Case

The recent high profile case of Kathleen Wyatt and Dale Vince highlights the importance of resolving financial issues at the time of divorce

In March this year, Kathleen Wyatt, whose marriage broke down more than 30 years ago, won the right to seek payments from her ex-husband, a one-time new age traveller who became a multimillionaire businessman.

Kathleen Wyatt was granted permission by the Supreme Court to lodge a belated claim against Dale Vince, who founded the green energy company Ecotricity. Ms Wyatt, who brought up their son and now lives in Monmouth with few assets, is claiming £1.9m. Dale Vince’s business, which provides power from wind turbines, is said to be worth £57m. The couple met in 1981, when she was 21 and he was 19. They lived on state benefits and, after their son was born, they parted and divorced in 1992.

In a unanimous decision, the five justices of the Supreme Court said the Family Court could not strike out Wyatt’s claim without a full consideration of the issues. But the judges warned Wyatt that she faces ‘formidable difficulties’ in seeking to establish that any financial order should be made in her favour because of the long delay and the fact that the relationship lasted less than three years. She may, the Supreme Court said, be able to rely on her much greater contribution to the upbringing of the couple’s children over many years, a factor which could justify a financial order for a comparatively modest sum.

Lord Wilson said that an award approaching the claimed £1.9 million is out of the question, adding: ‘It is a dangerous fallacy ... that the current law always requires rich men to meet the reasonable needs of their ex-wives.’

The ruling re-iterates that anyone without a completed financial order can bring a claim against their former spouse regardless of how long ago they divorced. The case highlights the importance of ensuring that all financial matters are finalised at the time of divorce and that a Court Order is obtained. Otherwise it could lead to future claims to a share of the wealth earned after the divorce.

For more information about this or any other aspect of divorce and family law, please contact Katie-Lee Pearson on 01325 466461 or email katie-lee.pearson@close-thornton.co.uk

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