Another Bite Of The Cherry……….?

You have sold, or are in the process of selling, the marital home, you have closed all joint accounts and divided any savings etc between you. You have also taken care of the payment of any debts. You may be dealing with the divorce process yourselves, without legal assistance and advice.

As far as you are concerned, once the divorce has been concluded and you have resolved the financial matters, you can move on with your life.

You would therefore be more than a little shocked if, following your divorce, your former spouse were to resurface some years later to seek further money from you.

This is exactly what has happened in a recent case which was decided by the Supreme Court.

The background to this case is that a couple divorced some 20 years ago and had very little in the way of financial assets at that time. In fact, they lived what has been described as a New Age traveller lifestyle.

Since their divorce, the husband (Mr Vince) has gone on to build up an extremely successful business and he is reportedly now worth in excess of £100m.

The wife (Ms Wyatt) took legal action against Mr Vince in 2011 to seek financial assistance from him arising from their divorce.

The reason that Ms Wyatt was able to seek legal redress from Mr Vince is because when this couple went through the divorce process, they did not enter into a written agreement which would prevent either one of them from making a financial claim against the other person, either at that time or at any point in the future.

In legal terms, the financial claims that this couple had against each other and which arose by virtue of their marriage, had not been dismissed and therefore, remained open. This has essentially led to Ms Wyatt being able to seek a bite of the cherry further down the line.

The decision for the Supreme Court in this matter was whether Ms Wyatt should be permitted to bring a financial claim against Mr Vince given they had been divorced for some 20 years. However, the Supreme Court ruled that Ms Wyatt’s case can go before the Family Court and that a determination can be made as to the level of financial assistance that Ms Wyatt requires from Mr Vince. Ms Wyatt is reportedly seeking £1.9m from Mr Vince.

The moral of this story is that if you and your spouse have already divorced, or you are going through this process, it is vital that you seek legal assistance as early as possible to ensure that the agreement you have reached is set out in a document and approved by the Court in conjunction with the divorce process. This document will state that you and your (soon to be former) spouse will not be able to make any financial claims against each other in the future. As the case of Vince and Wyatt shows, this course of action is extremely important even if there are little, or no, financial assets at the time of the divorce.

Please note that in some circumstances there will be ongoing financial support from one spouse to the other following the conclusion of a divorce, however in those circumstances, it is also extremely important that any such agreement is approved by the Court.

It is not just the amassing of wealth following a divorce that could lead to one spouse seeking financial recourse from the other in the future, as in the case of Mr Vince and Ms Wyatt. The same situation can apply in relation to the receipt of inheritance, lottery winnings or any other sort of windfall.

To protect your financial position in the event of a divorce, it is vital that you obtain legal advice at an early stage. If you are going through a divorce and do not have the assistance of solicitors, we would suggest that you contact us without delay.

If you have already been through a divorce and have resolved matters with your former spouse by agreement between you and without the Court endorsing a document confirming your agreement, we would encourage you to seek advice as to your legal position and the options available to you to ensure that you are protected in the future.

Gardner Croft offers specialist legal advice in all family related matters. Call us today on 01227 813400 or email enquiries@gardnercroft.co.uk to arrange an initial fixed fee consultation of £100.

Words: Joanna Illingworth.