Wind tycoon fails to walk away from ex-wife’s demand for lump sum
17th March, 2015
A wind tycoon is facing further litigation after his ex-wife of more than 20 years since has succeeded in overturning the dismissal of her claim in the Supreme Court.
Ms Wyatt married Mr Vince on the 18th December 1981 and they had a son together before separating in 1984. At the time of separation they were both receiving benefits; they eventually got divorced in 1992, by which time both had had other relationships and further children.
Ms Wyatt continued to struggle financially whereas Mr Vince initially pursued a “new-age travelling lifestyle” before his green energy business based in Gloucester took off in the late 90s and he became a multi-millionaire. Mr Vince apparently now lives in a “Georgian fort” and in true eco-style drives a fabulously expensive electric sports car. Ms Wyatt on the other hand continues to live a “modest” lifestyle.
So how would you feel if your ex-husband and the father of your children was now living it up whilst you had struggled to feed and clothe yourself and the children whilst for many years he lived the life of a hippy? Clearly Ms Wyatt felt she should have some sort of financial recompense and so, in 2011, she applied to the divorce Courts for an order for a payment of a lump sum from Mr Vince. She also applied for an order that Mr Vince pay her legal fees.
Mr Vince applied to strike out her application on the basis that it had “no reasonable grounds of success” and in the Court of Appeal in May 2013 Ms Wyatt’s application was indeed struck out. The Judge in that case said that the Court should not allow a party to a former marriage to be “harassed by claims for financial relief which (a) are issued many years after the divorce and (b) have no real prospect of success.”
At which point Mr Vince no doubt jumped for joy as did many other wealthy ex husbands and wives who at the time failed to take the advice of a solicitor to get an Order dismissing financial claims at the same time as finalising the divorce. But Mr Vince’s celebrations were premature as the Supreme Court has today allowed Ms Wyatt’s own appeal. An allowance for her legal costs has been reinstated and Ms Wyatt can now continue with her claim.
Does this now open the door for ex husbands and wives of wealthy business men and women to go running to the Court? Well, actually the door was never closed. Shropshire-based solicitor Sandy Edwards of local law firm Aaron & Partners comments: “I have been practising for many years and I have seen a good few clients look at me in horror when I have told them that whilst they may have divorced years ago their husband or wife still has a financial claim.”
When one looks at the Judgement more closely, however, it seems that this is not a case that will lead to an opening of the floodgates as whilst allowing her appeal, the Judges in the Supreme Court clarified matters somewhat, with Lord Justice Wilson commenting: “Ms Wyatt faces formidable difficulties in seeking to establish that a financial order should be made in her favour, including the short duration of the marriage and the long delay since then.” The Judges made it clear that whilst Ms Wyatt may have a claim based on needs, those needs had to arise out of the marriage.
Sandy adds: “This has to be right but of course one of the factors that the Court will take into account as the case progresses is the contribution that each party made to the welfare of the family including the looking after of the home or caring for the family”.
The ultimate outcome of this case remains to be seen but what it does reinforce is the advice that Sandy says she always gives to her divorcing clients, namely: “The clean break order in relations to financial matters which dismisses the parties’ claims against each other either now, in the future or upon death is as important as the divorce itself.
“Even if Ms Wyatt does only achieve a modest outcome, just think of the thousands and thousands of pounds of legal costs and all the stress of the proceedings themselves. Whilst solicitors can be considered expensive, surely it is worth it for peace of mind just in case you are destined to become a tycoon of one type or another in the future!”
For further information please contact Sandy Edwards on 01743 453689 or email [email protected]