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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

07 APR 2015

Wyatt v Vince [2015] UKSC 14: a case of limited legal significance?

Simon  Sugar

Barrister

Wyatt v Vince [2015] UKSC 14: a case of limited legal significance?
Despite the headlines, I think that the case is of very limited legal significance. At the heart of the judgment was the decision that a claim for financial remedies brought 22 years after divorce could not be struck out. A claim would only be struck out if an application were not legally recognisable, for example a claim brought after re-marriage - because statute expressly prevents such claims being brought. The fact that a claim was weak was insufficient to allow the court to strike out a claim. No decision was made as to what the wife would be entitled to; which was left to be determined on another day by a more junior court. The Supreme Court did however provide a hint as to a potential future outcome; namely that the wife should receive a somewhat more comfortable mortgage free home. Bearing in mind the wife lives in an ex local authority property purchased for £60,000 in 2010 and the husband worth probably in excess of £57 million; the provision of ‘a somewhat more comfortable mortgage free home’ suggests the wife’s likely award will be very modest; both in terms of amount and as a percentage of the husband’s wealth. The legal basis for such an award appears to be that of compensation for the wife’s role in bringing up the children.

Does  Wyatt v Vince [2015] UKSC 14 mean that a pension sharing order could be obtained many years after divorce in circumstances where the pension was built up post separation? The answer to that question is clearly that such an outcome is possible, although the pension share would be likely to be modest. However much will depend on the facts of the case and whether the party who built up the pension had an excess of resources once his or her needs were met. The risk of a claim being brought against a pension generated years after divorce can however be easily avoided. Just do what most people do; formally resolve financial claims at the time of divorce.

Simon Sugar is co-author of DIY Divorce and Separation: The expert guide to representing yourself. For more information visit the DIY Divorce website

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