A recent case, decided by the Supreme Court, Wyatt and Vince, has allowed a wife to make financial claims after separating in 1984 ( 3 years after the marriage) and 18 years after their divorce.
During the marriage the parties had no money and after separation neither had money for some time. They had a child between them who was raised mainly by the wife. However, the husband, who had adopted a new-age traveller’s lifestyle, had an interest in the environment and went on to develop a wind turbine technology which then made him many millions. The wife remained poor.
The divorce papers were lost so the court assumed that no final financial order had been made. The Supreme Court therefore held that the wife was free to pursue her financial claims against her former husband notwithstanding the time that had passed since the separation and divorce and the fact that he had made all his money since then and without any help from the wife.
The Supreme Court therefore directed that the wife’s application proceed in the Family Division of the High Court so the final outcome is awaited. However, the case has alreaady cost hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal costs. The Supreme Court also reinstated an earlier order for the husband to pay £125,000 to the wife to pay her legal costs. By the time of this last court decision that had all been spent.
So some of the lessons are: to be very careful at the time of the divorce to ensure that there is a final clean break court order, to keep the divorce papers for a long time and to keep a record of child care and financial contributions for the children. In this case the wife was claiming to be compensated for having borne the brunt of raising the child without financial support from the husband even though during many of those years he also was without money.