The news that five Supreme Court justices unanimously ruled that Ms Kathleen Wyatt can take legal action against her millionaire ex-husband, Mr Dale Wince, after they divorced 20 years ago, long before he made his fortune, has sent shockwaves through the legal profession.
While press and broadcasters who made the story headline news are citing this as a possible revolution in divorce cases - if Ms Wyatt is successful this would mean there is no time limit for ex-husbands or wives to apply for a financial settlement – Head of Verisona Law’s Family & Matrimonial Team, Debbie Bulmer, recommends some perspective:
‘What this actually means is that Supreme Court feels there is a case to answer - nothing more. The rest is just speculation. We have no idea as to the evidence supporting this case - the claim could be thrown out of court - but I doubt Ms Wyatt will be awarded anywhere near the £1.9 million she is said to be seeking.’
‘Under the current Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, Judges must consider the individual circumstances of each case when reaching a decision. This is currently the position and will remain so, but it cannot be emphasised enough that Wyatt v Vince is a very unusual case.’
‘In short, Ms Wyatt is being given the opportunity to argue her case and it remains to be seen if she has one. I cannot believe there will now be a rush of people running to judges asking if they can argue for their chance to claim retrospective settlements. After all, how many couples do you know who become multi-millionaires?’
‘The lesson to be learned is how important it is for couples to ensure that they have a clean break on divorce, regardless of their financial position. This is the only way anyone can protect themselves from any claims in the future.’