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Supreme Court hands down judgment in Wyatt v Vince

View profile for Mark Kosmin
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On 11 March 2015, the Supreme Court unanimously allowed the former wife's appeal in Wyatt v Vince [2015] UKSC 15, enabling her to pursue her application for financial orders, which she had issued 19 years after she and her former husband had divorced. The Supreme Court also restored the wife’s costs allowance order that had been made at first instance against the husband and thereby set aside the Court of Appeal’s repayment order that had been made against the wife.

The Judgment emphasises that in all cases, regardless of the parties’ standard of living, there is a need to ensure that financial issues are resolved and an order obtained at the time of the divorce, to avoid claims being made many years later. In this case, the parties are both in their fifties and the husband had amassed all his wealth many years after the parties’ marriage had broken down.

The Supreme Court examined the court’s jurisdiction to strike out an application for a financial order and concluded that the wife’s application was not an abuse of process, notwithstanding that (paragraph 30):

a) The parties cohabited for scarcely two years;

b) The marriage broke down 31 years ago;

c) The standard of living enjoyed by the parties before the breakdown could not have been lower;

d) The husband did not begin to create his current wealth until 13 years after the breakdown;

e) The wife has made no contribution, direct or indirect, to its creation.

The Judgment also commented that although the wife’s claim for £1.9m was ‘out of the question’ and might be dismissed, she might be entitled to receive a modest award to reflect the contribution that she made to the welfare of the children and the absence of any financial or other contribution by the husband.

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