On 11 March 2015 the Supreme Court gave judgement in the case of Wyatt v Vince  UKSC14. It decided that a Wife could make an application to the court to ask for a lump sum of money 20 years after divorcing her husband.
Ms Wyatt and Mr Vince had married in 1981 and had one child together. Ms Wyatt already had a child who became a child of the family. At the time of the divorce in 1992 neither the husband nor the wife had any assets or income. Following the divorce and before the children of the marriage turned 18 the husband established Ecotricity, an energy company which is now estimated to be worth in excess of £100 million. Ms Wyatt has applied to the court for £1.9 million as Mr Vince had given practically no financial support since they had separated and was asking the Court for permission to make this claim. Mr Vince sought to have the application struck out.
The Supreme Court have agreed to Ms Wyatt continuing her claim, making it clear that it does not have the power to make a decision on a financial claim before it has seen all of the facts and figures and so equally it cannot refuse to give a person permission to apply at such an early stage.
Although, on the face of it, the Court’s decision could be seen to be allowing financial claims to stay open between divorced parties indefinitely, the focus should be on what the eventual outcome of this particular wife’s claim is. On giving it’s decision the Supreme Court commented that the wife “faces formidable difficulties in seeking to establish that a financial order should be made in her favour” but that the claim should at the very least ‘proceed to a short hearing’. Indeed a Judge in Court commented that the wife’s claim for £1.9 million was ‘ill-advised’, acknowledging it may be dismissed but also that the wife may receive a small sum of money.
How successful Ms Wyatt will be with her claim still remains to be seen, however what this case does show is that there is no time limit for ex-spouses to apply to the Court for a financial settlement. It therefore cannot be underestimated how important it is to finalise financial matters at the time of the divorce itself and receive specialist legal advice to safeguard your future.