Recent Case shows need for Clean Break Order

By Paul Hunt at 00:00

Divorce stories are ten a penny when it comes to ex-spouses at loggerheads but the latest case in the Supreme Court has seen a woman seeking financial support from her now-millionaire ex-husband – 20 years after their divorce was finalised.

Kathleen Wyatt, 55, has won her case in the Supreme Court and will be allowed to pursue a claim for financial provision from ex Dale Vince despite their divorce taking place in 1992.

The couple lived a traveller lifestyle before separating in the mid 1980’s when neither of them had two pennies to rub together at that point. The ex-husband however went from strength the strength and established a hugely successful business around green energy and wind turbines.

It can be argued that bringing such an application over 20 years after the divorce was finalised, when there has been no contribution at all to the wealth created post divorce, is taking a liberty. It is a very difficult to avoid a gut reaction to the case on those lines.

In this instance the gut reaction would be very wrong. The Court has been persuaded to permit the ex-wife to pursue her application and the case will be passed back down from the Supreme Court to the High Court for full hearing.

However, the Court has cautioned her that while the application can be run, she should in the circumstances be looking for a ‘comparatively modest award’.

No doubt the ex-husband thinks that anything at all after 20 years is too much.

However, it remains the case that there is no time limit on making an application for financial remedies. Unlike other civil claims, the only restriction on making financial applications in the future when the divorce is finalised is if the applicant has remarried.

The only way of making sure this door is closed and remains very firmly nailed shut is to obtain a Court order at the time of the divorce by way of a ‘clean break’. This can be done by agreement with the document submitted to the Court for approval.

I continue to meet many clients who have separated years before (although perhaps not as much as 20 years) and either have done nothing at all about financial issues or have divided assets between them informally but without obtaining a Court order. This is an extreme case but it does demonstrate the principle that it is potentially fatal just to walk away from a divorce without having tied up the loose ends.

Had the parties in this case got a clean break order in 1992 then that would have been the end of the matter but from the husbands point of view will prove to be an expensive omission.


Paul Hunt

Paul Hunt , Senior Associate

As a senior solicitor Paul is responsible for cases involving divorce or separation, children, financial and property issues and domestic violence.

He is member of Resolution panel for private children law, ancillary relief and domestic violence. Paul is also trained in Collaborative Law.


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