Financial settlements following divorce.

In Spring 2015 the media was full of the story of the Ecotricity magnate whose ex-wife had brought a claim against him for financial support  20 years after their original divorce. When Kathleen Wyatt and Dale Vince divorced, they were penniless hippies. Subsequently however Mr Vince formed the green energy company Ecotricity which is now believed to be worth some £57 million. Ms Wyatt (whose financial position had changed little since the divorce) claimed £1.9 million of that fortune even though they had been divorced for many years. Her claim went all the way to the Supreme Court where judges decided that if there was no evidence that her financial claims on divorce had been properly dismissed, she should be entitled to progress them.

And now, with considerably less fanfare, it has emerged that a settlement has been reached under which the ex-wife will receive £300,000. Mr Vince has apparently agreed to this out of pragmatism. I suspect that neither party is particularly pleased – Mr Vince may have paid a great deal more than this in legal costs in his efforts to prevent his ‘ex’ getting anything (costs he was unlikely to recoup even if he was successful) and for Ms Wyatt it’s a long way off  the £1.9 million she was hoping for.

When the Supreme Court ruled that Ms Wyatt could progress her claims Mr Vince commented:

“I feel that we all have a right to move on and not be looking over our shoulders. This could signal open season for people who had brief relationships a quarter of a century ago … it’s mad in my opinion.”

The real irony is that in saying people have a right to move on knowing that matters relating to their former marriage are closed Mr Vince was absolutely right – which is why the law has a mechanism for doing precisely that. Divorce in itself doesn’t dismiss all financial claims arising out of a marriage. though this is something many people are unaware of. If you want to be sure that your former spouse can’t come back to haunt you financially at a later stage then you should enter into a Consent Order that provides for a complete ‘clean break’ between you with a ‘dismissal’ of all financial claims arising out of the marriage.

As well as handling divorce we can prepare all the necessary documents for a clean break. We are able to undertake these tasks for a fixed fee that is likely to be a great deal less than it would cost you to deal with a subsequent financial claim! As Mr Vince’s position shows all too clearly, even if your finances are limited now, you never know what might be around the corner, or even 20 years down the line.

For a free initial consultation with a family lawyer to discuss your divorce or clean break call us on Taunton 01823 354545.

Can my ‘ex’ claim money from me even after we have been divorced?