In the case of Wyatt v Vince UKSC 15 (11 March 2015), the Supreme Court allowed the former wife’s appeal against her former husband for a financial claim for a lump sum payment as well as assistance with her legal costs 18 years after the parties were divorced.
The Supreme Court has ruled that because there was no financial order and no time limit in family law for making a financial order, there was nothing to prevent the wife’s claim from being successful and the High Court will now consider how much she should receive bearing in mind current law.
The ruling essentially paves the way for anyone without a completed financial order to 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 a sealed and approved Court order is obtained. Otherwise it could lead to future claims to a share of the wealth earned after the divorce.
A Consent Order approved and sealed by the Court will prevent either party from making any further financial claims against the other either during your lifetimes or after death. The benefit of entering into a Consent Order is that it guarantees that the settlement reached is in full and final settlement both now and in the future. The Consent Order will also dismiss the right of either party to make further claims.
It is however important to note that if a party to a divorce remarries without having made an application for financial matters to be dealt with or having entered into a Consent Order, he or she cannot subsequently issue an application for Ancillary Relief after the remarriage. This is known as the “remarriage trap”. In view of this trap it is generally better to ensure financial matters are resolved before Decree Absolute is pronounced.
Given the recent judgment from the Supreme Court it is now crucial that any divorcees who do not have completed and sealed financial orders in place review their situation as they may now face claims based on wealth acquired after the divorce.
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