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Supreme Court allows wife’s claim 18 years after divorce to proceed

Omission from FPR of power to grant summary judgment deliberate

The Supreme Court has allowed the former wife's appeal in Wyatt v Vince [2015] UKSC 15.

In May 2013 the Court of Appeal allowed Mr Vince's appeal against the dismissal of his application to strike out his former wife's, Ms Wyatt's, claim for a financial remedy, which she issued some 18 years after the parties were divorced. The Court also held that an A v A order should not have been made against the husband requiring him to pay a total of £125,000 to fund his ex-wife's legal costs of bringing the claim against him. In the High Court Mr Vince had been ordered to pay £125,000 directly to Ms Wyatt's solicitors.

Lord Wilson, explaining the judgment of the Supreme Court, said that the omission from the Family Procedure Rules of a power to grant summary judgment was deliberate.

'Ms Wyatt's claim should proceed to a short hearing,' he added.

Lord Wilson stated that the pitching of Ms Wyatt's claim at £1.9 million was ill-advised and acknowledged that it might be dismissed but envisaged that she might receive a modest award.

Mishcon de Reya, who acted for Ms Wyatt, said:

"We are pleased that the Supreme Court has found in favour of our client Kath Wyatt and that her application can continue. We have always believed that our client has a strong case, and we welcome the clarity of this decision by the Supreme Court."

Elizabeth Hicks, of Irwin Mitchell, commented:

"This ruling essentially paves the way for anyone without a completed financial order to bring a claim against their former spouse regardless of how long ago they divorced.

"The case highlights the importance of ensuring that all financial matters are finalised at the time of divorce and a court order is obtained. Otherwise it could lead to future claims to a share of the wealth earned after the divorce.

"It is unprecedented to hear of a claim being made after 22 years but the court has ruled that because there was no financial order and no time limit in family law for making a financial order, there was nothing to prevent Ms Wyatt's claim from being successful and the High Court will now consider how much she should receive bearing in mind current law.

"While any good divorce lawyer should ensure that all financial matters are finalised and immune to future claims, it is crucial that any divorcees who don't have financial orders in place review their situation as they may now face claims based on wealth acquired after the divorce."

The judgment and summary are here.