In a landmark case, Kathleen Wyatt has been awarded £300,000 in a divorce settlement despite her ex-husband’s fortune, made via his green energy business only being built up years after their divorce.
Ms Wyatt and Dale Vince lived a “New Age” traveller lifestyle during their relationship. They separated in the mid-1980’s and divorced in 1992. Following a trip to Glastonbury, Mr Vince’s lifestyle changed and he launched a green energy business in the mid-1990’s called Ecotricity, which is now understood to be worth at least £57m.
Ms Wyatt did not lodge a claim for financial remedy seeking £1.9m until 2011, by which point Mr Vince had remarried and his business was thriving. Whilst her ex-husband lives in a £3m Georgian property and drives custom-made cars, Ms Wyatt claims to be in poor health, living in a modest house and has four children by three different men.
Despite three appeal judges blocking her claim in 2013, the Supreme Court allowed Ms Wyatt to proceed with her claim, adding that there was a real prospect she would obtain a “comparatively modest award”. Whilst the court did not consider her claim of £1.9m to be a wise amount, she was awarded £300,000 including her legal costs.
Mr Vince was critical of the time lapse between the couple’s divorce and the claim for financial settlement being lodged, particularly as this time lapse led to a considerably more favourable settlement for Ms Wyatt than would have been the case had a settlement been reached at the time of the divorce.
This case highlights issues that can arise in obtaining a clean break after divorce. Should your ex-spouse be entitled to benefit from a change in your financial situation years after the marriage ended? Should your ex-spouse be permitted to “wait until the time is right” before issuing a claim, even if this is years after the breakdown of the relationship and parties have moved on?
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