Why you must make a financial order

There has been much debate over whether it is fair for a woman to be able to launch a claim for money against her millionaire ex-husband more than two decades after they divorced – but in the eyes of the law, fairness does not come into it.

The fact is that when Kathleen Wyatt and Dale Vince divorced in 1992, there was no financial order made.  In the absence of a financial order – a legally binding court document (usually by consent) approved by a Judge – either party can return at a later date and make a claim against their former spouse unless they have remarried.

In the case of Wyatt and Vince, at the time of their marriage and indeed separation, the couple – who have one son together and a daughter whom Mr Vince treated as his own – were penniless and survived by claiming state benefits. Since the divorce, both have gone on to have subsequent families, and whilst Ms Wyatt continues to struggle financially, Mr Vince has become a multi-millionaire with an estimated fortune of £57m through founding the green energy company Ecotricity.

Now, Ms Wyatt has been granted permission by a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court to lodge a belated claim against her ex-husband.  She is seeking £1.9m. Her case will now be heard by a family court, who will decide how much, if anything, she is entitled to.

This case has served as a reminder of the necessity of securing a financial order during divorce proceedings, failing which, the importance of obtaining one retrospectively.

Such an order brings financial clarity and conclusion and avoids a situation like this occurring. Without one, a precedent has now been set that a former spouse can reopen the matter and lodge a belated claim.

A good lawyer should always advise securing a financial order within divorce proceedings.  The order will become binding upon divorce.  If you do not have one, it is strongly advisable to protect yourself and your future assets by proposing it now to your ex-spouse.  If you are unsure whether you have one, you should check with the court.

The outcome of the Wyatt v Vince case remains to be seen, but through the simple process of obtaining a financial order, the door will be firmly closed to a former spouse trying to make a claim on your assets at any point in the future.

Louise Masters is a matrimonial specialist solicitor at Newcastle law firm Sintons. To speak to her about this or any other matter, contact Louise on louise.masters@sintons.co.uk or 0191 226 3641.

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