The importance of dealing with financial matters at the time of your divorce
On 11th March 2015, the Supreme Court handed down their decision in the case of Vince v. Wyatt  UKSC 14 and granted a wife permission to make an application for financial relief against her ex-husband even though they had divorced over 20 years ago.
Facts of the case:
The parties married in 1981 and lived as “new age travellers” up until their separation in 1984. There was one child of the marriage, a son born in 1981 although the wife had a child from a previous relationship. The parties divorce in 1992 and although the husband stated that the wife made an application for financial relief at that time, which was subsequently dismissed, no papers relating to this were found by the Court.
In 1995, the wife began a new relationship and went on to have two more children. Around the same time, the husband founded a wind power company which went on to make “many millions of pounds”. He remarried in 2006 and had another child.
On 19 May 2011, the wife made an application for financial relief against her ex-husband and sought an order for a costs allowance to enable her to fund her case. The husband applied to “strike out” her application and after many lengthy hearings, the Supreme Court ruled that the wife was entitled to make her application and that the application should proceed and be determined by the Court. It was held that there was no time bar to making an application for financial relief and that without a sealed Consent Order; an applicant was entitled to bring a claim for financial remedy many years after a divorce.
Importance of the decision:
The decision is important as it highlights the need to deal with financial matters at the time of your divorce, rather than risk of your ex-spouse making a financial claim against you many years after your separation and divorce. It emphasises the need for divorcing couples to enter into a Consent Order setting out the financial arrangements reached at the time of their divorce, as such an Order is legally binding and enforceable and acts in full and final satisfaction of all financial claims that either party could seek to bring against the other in relation to their marriage. By entering into a Consent Order, parties no longer need to “look over their shoulders” for fear that their ex-spouse may seek financial relief at a later stage and are therefore free to move on with their lives post their divorce.
If Mr Vince had entered into a Consent Order with ex-wife at the time of their divorce, all financial claims would have been dismissed at that stage and she would not have been able to make an application for a financial relief against him in 2011. Instead, he now faces such an application and runs the risk that not only will the Court make some kind of Order for financial provision in favour of his ex-wife, but he will also incur substantial legal fees in defending her application.
Anyone going through a divorce should strongly consider their financial position and that of their spouse, and try to reach an agreement to set out exactly what has been agreed between them, regardless of the value of any assets. Whilst it may seem unnecessary in some cases, especially those where there are limited assets, nobody knows how life will pan out and it is very important to plan for not only for now but also for the future.
For further advice on any issue of family law, please contact Lorna Barry or Kirsty Bowers.