On 11th March 2015 the Supreme Court decision in the case of Kathleen Wyatt and Dale Vince has caused many people to rush to check whether they obtained a Consent Order dealing with their finances when they were divorced.
The couple separated in 1984 and their divorce was finalised in October 1992 but despite this no Court Order was ever made dealing with their respective financial claims. That meant that the claims of Ms Wyatt were never concluded and twenty years later she made a claim against her ex-husband who by that time had become a multi-millionaire.
Initially the Court of Appeal had said that this was too late and Ms Wyatt could not make any claims now but the Supreme Court took the opposite view. Whilst not accepting that she should receive the £1.9 million settlement she was looking for the Court accepted that there was no strict time limit on other claims and Ms Wyatt was perfectly entitled to proceed. What she is eventually awarded remains to be seen but it is a reminder of the need to ensure that finances are all resolved at the time of a divorce even if at that point neither party has any assets to be divided.
The procedure with a divorce is that it is entirely possible that a couple could have their marriage brought to an end with a divorce being concluded but without any financial arrangements being confirmed by a Consent Order. The most straightforward way of this being dealt with is by the Court approving a settlement and making an Order by agreement (called a Consent Order) even if this is merely to acknowledge that there are no assets or no claims that are being made between the parties. A clean break is often achieved which confirms that neither one can make any future claim against the other – this is what was missing for Ms Wyatt and Mr Vince. At the time of the divorce the couple may trust one another not to make any future claims, or they do not wish to incur any additional expense in what they might think as a "formality" but circumstances can change. People do win the lottery! Without a Consent Order there is always a risk. With the recent withdrawal of legal aid for family work a couple may question the additional cost involved in obtaining such an Order but Mr Vince could well have saved himself a lot of money if he had taken that step of obtaining a Consent Order at the time of the divorce.
For anyone that has had a divorce but without a Consent Order dealing with finances it is important for them to check their paperwork and it is not too late to apply for the Consent Order now. For those going through a divorce it is very important to obtain an Order to give peace of mind and certainty for the future.
If you'd like further information on any of the above, contact Neale Grearson, Solicitor and Head of Family Department