Never Too Late to Make a Claim
Family law experts have urged divorcing couples in Somerset and Dorset to tie up loose ends after an ex-wife won the right to have her financial application heard by the court 23 years after separating from her husband.
Battens Solicitors warned that the landmark ruling from the Supreme Court - Britain's highest court - was a salutary lesson to put all finances in order or face the risk of nasty surprises years later.
Judges backed the right of Kathleen Wyatt to seek a financial settlement from her ex-husband Dale Vince, a Gloucestershire green energy tycoon who amassed his multi-million pound fortune after they split up. The couple were penniless New Age travellers when they divorced but never reached a financial settlement at the time.
Ms Wyatt seeks the sum of £1.9 million from her former husband, although has received a clear indication from the court that she may not succeed in gaining this much.
Lucy Brown, Senior Associate Solicitor at Battens, said: "Ultimately, this case serves to highlight two pieces of advice that we would give.
"Firstly, always ensure that financial claims are concluded alongside a divorce wherever possible and practical.
"Secondly, if you do not wish to resolve the financial claims at the time of your divorce, bear in mind that a claim could be made at any time in the future, with potentially a considerable cost involved.
"Mr Vince has been reported to have incurred costs in excess of £500,000 with his former wife's claims still to be decided."
She added: "We very often give what clients consider to be an outlandish example of one or other spouse winning the lottery some years in the future and the possibility of the other party making a claim against the lottery win.
"However, this case is a clear message from the Supreme Court that there do not need to be such extreme circumstances before your former spouse can claim against you.
"Merely bettering yourself post-divorce could be enough to trigger a claim by your former spouse attempting to share in your good fortune or hard work."
Lucy added: "There are also a number of legal measures which couples can put in place before marriage to avoid any issues and costs further down the line.
"These include cohabitation agreements, declarations of trust and pre-nuptial agreements."
Contact Lucy for more details on 01935 846058 or firstname.lastname@example.org