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Baker J rejects husband’s financial remedy claim 26 years after decree nisi

Case distinguished from Wyatt v Vince

In A v B (No 2) [2018] EWFC 45, Mr Justice Baker has concluded that a former husband, who brought an application for financial remedy 26 years after the grant of decree nisi, did not merit any financial provision.

At the time of the hearing, the applicant husband ("A") was 59 and the respondent wife ("B") was 61.  The parties had met in 1980 and married in 1983.  They had two children, born in 1986 and 1989.  The marriage broke down in 1991; B had commenced a relationship with another and moved out of the family home.  Shortly after separation, A filed for divorce, although no copy of the petition could be located raising the question as to whether the petition had included an application for financial relief, an issue considered at the hearing of the application to strike out, the costs of which have been adjourned and further submissions invited on the issue.  Decree nisi was pronounced in 1992.

There appear to have been a number of areas of dispute in respect of the factual matrix post-separation.  In 1992, following separation B was made redundant and was paid a sum of £30,000 from which she asserted she had paid £10,000 to A.  In 1994, the family home was sold and, as was asserted by B, there was negative equity, which was paid off.  At that time, it was also asserted that the parties had agreed to divide the four endowment policies in their joint names. There was an agreement for B to pay child maintenance, the children living for the most part with A.  In 2006, there was an agreement, again the details of which were disputed, but which resulted in B and her new partner acquiring a home which A and the children occupied. After the purchase, B and her new partner funded a significant extension to the property.  In 2012, A and his new partner spent sums putting a workshop in the garden at the property to enable them to continue their business from the property.  A married his partner in 2013, prompting dialogue in respect of the terms under which he occupied the property and following correspondence detailed in the judgment and legal advice, in 2016, the application in Form A was issued by A, in which A ultimately sought transfer of the property to him for his life time and a lump sum.

B initially issued an application to strike out. 

On 26 January 2018, Mr. Justice Baker refused the application to strike out the claim and listed the matter for an abbreviated hearing in accordance with the guidance offered in Wyatt v Vince [2015] UKSC 14

In respect of A's claim, it appears to have been A's contention that irrespective of the fact that his application was made many years after separation, his application should succeed on grounds of relationship generated need and or compensation.

Preferring the evidence of B, Mr Justice Baker dismissed A's application, concluding that the circumstances did not merit any financial provision. In doing so Mr Justice Baker held as follows:

i. A and B had reached a comprehensive agreement concerning the division of the limited resources following the divorce in 1992 to 1994 [paragraph 83];

ii. A had received considerable assistance by way of financial payment and other support from B throughout the children's minority [paragraph 84];

iii. Although A undeniably had financial needs, they were not of the scale encountered in previous cases or the type which B could fairly be asked to meet [paragraph 85];

iv. A had not suffered a disadvantage in his career so as to found a claim based in compensation; A had been supported by B at a level which had enabled him to follow the career and life of his choice [paragraph 86];

v. B had assumed financial obligations towards A and arranged her financial affairs on the assumption that A could not and would not make any claim against her; had she known that A would make a claim, she would not have agreed to the extensive provision (by way of the property) that she made in 2006 [paragraph 87];

vi. The explanation or reason for the delay in this particular case was that both parties considered that they had resolved the financial issues arising on their divorce in the informal agreement that they reached in 1992 to 1994, and it was not until 2015 that A was alerted to the possibility that his claim may have survived [paragraphs 88- 89].

For the judgment, prefaced by a summary by Georgina Rushworth of Coram Chambers (which this news item reproduces), click here.