The case of Vince v Wyatt shows how divorcees can face financial claims many years after they split.
The couple separated after only three years of marriage as long ago as 1984. They eventually got a formal divorce in 1992, over 20 years ago. Neither the husband nor the wife had any money or assets at the time.
Life went on and both of them had other relationships.
But this is where their paths took different directions.
The husband set up his own small business in 1995 having improvised a small wind turbine to generate electricity. That company is now a great success. You can see their website for yourself by clicking here.
The husband became reasonably wealthy on the back of this business. The wife, from whom he had separated many years earlier, had no upturn in her fortunes or wealth.
In 2012 the wife made an application to court for financial provision on the basis that she was once married to this now successful business man. Remember, this was 20 years after the formal divorce itself and 28 years after the couple separated.
Is it possible to apply for a divorce financial order years after the divorce?
A husband or wife can apply to the court for a financial order even after the divorce has been concluded provided that;
- Their rights to make such claims have not been explicitly dismissed; and
- The person applying has not remarried.
Even if the person applying for the order has remarried then they can still pursue a claim if they had given notice of their intention to do so before remarrying. Usually, the person who applies for the divorce itself will give a standard notification on the divorce petition to ensure this eventuality is covered.
The judgment explains that the husband, for his part, remarried in 2006. As a result he would not have been able to apply to the court for a financial order explicitly dismissing potential claims on his ex-wife’s part – sometimes called a Clean Break order.
He was still able to apply for an order that the wife’s resurrected claim for financial provision should be struck out, or dismissed, by the court before the matter went on to incur the costs and time that a full trial would have taken.
That application was refused by the court at first but was allowed upon appeal.
As a result, the wife was not allowed to exercise the right she claimed to have to pursue an order for financial provision.
What is a clean break order and how does it help you?
Many couples assume that just because neither of them has any money at the time of the divorce that there is no need to get a financial order.
This case of Vince v Wyatt (Click here to read the full judgment) shows that this assumption is wrong.
Getting a clean break order in divorce, even where there is no money or where neither partner is paying anything to the other, prevents the risk of nasty divorce shocks like this happening years later. In this case there might have been an agreed and sealed clean break order – it was that long ago that nobody could remember and there were no files or documents still in existence that proved the point one way or the other. The other lesson therefore is this. Get a clean break order to explicitly dismiss the potential for future claims and make sure that you keep a copy of it.
There is a risk that people who are using do it yourself or DIY divorce packages might overlook this requirement, leaving them at considerable risk of future financial claims.
In this case the Judges decided that the husband was not to be seen as being his ex-wife’s “Insurer against life’s eventualities.” A properly drafted and sealed clean break financial order, kept in a safe place, could have served as his insurance against having to go through the costs and anxiety no doubt caused by his long estranged ex-wife’s application. This applies as much to heterosexual relationships and marriages as it does to same sex civil partnerships and civil partnership dissolutions.
Are you thinking about divorce or doing your own divorce?
If you or anybody you know is thinking of or going through divorce then contact us by clicking here to see how we can help you. You can also telephone us now on 020 7420 5000 or email any questions you might have about divorce, clean break and financial orders, or to talk about problems arising from your DIY divorce by emailing us at email@example.com