13/09/2017 by SOW Enterprises 0 Comments
Woman wins right to seek money from ex-husband 30 years after breakup
Woman wins right to seek money from ex-husband 30 years after breakup..
A woman whose marriage broke down more than 30 years ago has won the right to seek payments from her ex-husband, a one-time new age traveller who became a multimillionaire businessman.
Kathleen Wyatt has been granted permission by the supreme court to lodge a belated claim against Dale Vince, who founded and runs the green energy company Ecotricity.
Wyatt, 55, who brought up their son and now lives in Monmouth with few assets, is claiming £1.9m. Vince, 53, lives in a Georgian hill fort in Gloucestershire with his second wife. His business, which provides power from wind turbines, is said to be worth £57m.
The couple met in 1981, when she was 21 and he was 19, and married later that year. Wyatt already had a child from an earlier relationship who was accepted as part of the family. They subsisted on state benefits.
After moving to Norfolk, where their son was born in 1983, they parted. Vince began travelling, initially in an old ambulance converted into a camper van. He later drove to Spain with a new partner in a 30-year-old fire engine. Vince and Wyatt were formally divorced in 1992. She subsequently had two more children from a later relationship.
Vince’s first experiments in wind power began at Glastonbury festival where he fixed a windmill to a pylon and charged mobile phone batteries. By 1996, with the help of a bank loan, he had set up a wind turbine on top of a hill at Nympsfield, in the Costswolds, and started generating what became a substantial income. Vince’s son with Wyatt now lives and works with him.
In a unanimous decision, five justices of the supreme court – the deputy president, Lady Hale, Lord Clarke, Lord Wilson, Lord Hughes and Lord Hodge – said the family court could not strike out Wyatt’s claim without a full consideration of the issues.
But the judges warned Wyatt she faces “formidable difficulties” in seeking to establish that any financial order should be made in her favour because of the long delay and the fact that the relationship lasted less than three years.
She may, the supreme court said, be able to rely on her much greater contribution to the upbringing of the couple’s children over many years, a factor which could justify a financial order for a comparatively modest sum.
Lord Wilson, giving judgment, said: “Even at this stage, one can say that, in the light of the negatives, an award approaching [the claimed £1.9 million] is out of the question. It is a dangerous fallacy ... that the current law always requires rich men to meet the reasonable needs of their ex-wives.”
Wyatt will now have to return to the high court to pursue her claim. In a recent test case, the appeal court told the ex-wife of a millionaire horse surgeon to seek employment and warned that she had no right to expect “an income for life” at her former husband’s expense.
Responding to the supreme court decision, Wyatt’s lawyers, Mishcon de Reya, said: “We are pleased that the 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.”
Vince said: “I’m disappointed that the supreme court has decided not to bring this case to an end now, over 30 years since the relationship ended.
“We both moved on and started families of our own. For my part the passing of time is extremely prejudicial, it’s been so long that there are no records, no court has kept anything, and it’s hard to defend yourself in such circumstances – indeed the delay itself has enabled the claim, because there is no paperwork in existence.
“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.
“In this case there are no joint assets, the separation was 30 years ago, and there’s no incentive to be sensible on costs – because I’m paying both sides. It’s one thing to face a reckless claim, but another entirely to have to fund it to court.”
Elizabeth Hicks, a leading divorce lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said: “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.”