Big Money Case Makes Headlines Again
The Supreme Court has just delivered a judgment in another big money case which, on the face of it, would seem to fly in the face of the other case reported recently, of Wright v Wright, where they dismissed a maintenance order to the wife by a millionaire racehorse surgeon, stating it was about time that she got work, and stood on her own two feet.
In the case of Vince v Wyatt, Ms Wyatt and Mr Vince were married in 1981. They had a son together and Ms Wyatt had a daughter from a previous relationship that had been treated as a child of the marriage. Sadly the couple separated in 1984, and it appears that the wife had a difficult financial time of it, bringing up the son, and her daughter. At that time Mr Vince was living a “new age lifestyle” and couldn’t make substantial financial contributions to the family.
The couple divorced in 1992, and it appears that no financial case was dealt with then. In the mid 1990s Mr Vince’s business took off – he was the founder of windpower firm Ecotricity. He became a multi-millionaire.
In 2011 Ms Wyatt applied for financial provision within the divorce proceedings, applying for a lump sum, and help from Mr Vince to pay her legal costs as the proceedings went on. Mr Vince applied to strike out the application on the basis that her case had no reasonable grounds for bringing it and that it was an abuse of process.
The judge hearing the case ordered Mr Vince to pay a set amount each month towards Ms Wyatt’s legal fees, and dismissed Mr Vince’s application. Mr Vince appealed and the Court of Appeal agreed with Mr Vince, striking out Ms Wyatt’s application and ordered her to pay back some of the money she had received in the meantime from Mr Vince.
The case went before the Supreme Court, who has delivered its judgment today. Ms Wyatt appealed against the Court of Appeal decision and that appeal has been upheld.
The case was mainly about the law relating to striking out applications in family cases, and they concluded that they did not feel that her application was without reasonable grounds, or that it was an abuse of the process.
They have not made a decision about whether and how much Ms Wyatt’s claim is worth, this will be dealt with by the Family Court at a later date, but what they did say was that whilst she will struggle – it was a short marriage, and there has been significant delay in bringing the application – they felt that her contribution to the marriage, and to raising their son, was such that the court had to listen to that argument. They went on to say that she would be unlikely to receive the £1.9 million that she was asking for, but they did say that the lower court may consider awarding a modest amount to enable her to buy a property to live in.
The court in any divorce financial settlement, have to consider section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and the factors that are listed there. They have to balance these factors and make a decision based upon that balance. The Supreme Court has given an indication as to how they may balance the factors, but the case is not yet over – watch this space!!
This article was written by Vicky Medd, Head of Family & Mediation at Ridley & Hall. For legal advice with regard to this or any other aspect of family law, please contact us on 01484 538421 or via e-mail.