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Woman’s claim against millionaire she split from in 1980s set to worry many

The much publicised tale of a woman whose marriage broke down over 30 years ago, winning the right to seek payments from her millionaire ex-husband, has certainly made many take notice.

The case concerns a lady called Kathleen Wyatt who has been given permission by the Supreme Court to lodge a belated claim against her ex-husband Dale Vince, founder of energy company Ecotricity.

Wyatt who brought up their son, is claiming £1.9m from the relationship with Vince, who is according to press reports worth £57m.

The relationship began in 1981.The couple lived as New Age travellers surviving mainly on State benefits. Their son was born in 1983, but the relationship broke down and they split with Vince moving out in 1984.They formally divorced in 1992 and at that time there was no financial settlement as it was accepted that Vince had no money or assets.

In the years following their split Vince set up his company. The business took off and was highly successful earning Vince millions.His son with Wyatt now works with him.

In a unanimous decision, five justices of the Supreme Court ruled the Family Court could not strike out Wyatt’s claim without full consideration of the issues, but indicated Wyatt she faces difficulties in seeking to establish that any financial order should be made in her favour as a result of the very long delay in bringing the application, and the fact that the relationship was short.

She may however, the Supreme Court said, be able to rely on her much greater contribution of bringing up the couple’s son over many years, a factor which they said could justify a financial order but warned for a comparatively modest sum.

Wyatt will now continue her battle by returning to the High Court to pursue her claim.

At Dale and Newbery we see this ruling potentially paving the way for anyone without a completed financial order to bring a claim against their ex-spouse regardless of how long ago they parted.

This case highlights the importance, and the need to ensure that all financial matters are finalised at the time of divorce, and a court order obtained. Without a final order there is the possibility of claims being pursued in the future for a share of the wealth earned long after the divorce.

It is unusual to hear of a claim being so long after a couple’s separation, but the court has ruled that as there was no financial order, and there is no time limit in family law for making a financial order, there is nothing to prevent the claim from being pursued.

The High Court will meet to decide how much Wyatt should receive bearing in mind current law.

This landmark case could open the floodgates for individuals whose former spouses go from rags to riches.