Divorce sounds pretty final doesn’t it? But for some couples, divorce is not the end of the story. There have been a few high profile divorce cases where the court has ruled that divorce payments must be made, despite the fact that the couples divorced many years earlier and their children are grown up. What can be learned from this?
The cases which involved complicated Divorce payments
In 2016, Dale Vince agreed to pay his former wife, Kathleen Wyatt, a lump sum of £300,000. Whilst this does not sound like a groundbreaking amount, the two had been divorced for nearly 20 years (and, indeed, had only been married for three). During their marriage, they had lived a New Age traveller lifestyle and had very little capital assets. Mr Vince had established himself as a businessman post-separation and had built a company worth in the millions. The agreement between Mr Vince and Ms Wyatt followed five years of legal proceedings, which made their way all the way to the Supreme Court after Mr Vince opposed Ms Wyatt’s 2011 claim on the basis it was made too late. Mr Vince was unsuccessful, with the Supreme Court giving the greenlight to Ms Wyatt and their agreement was made before further Financial Remedy proceedings commenced.
In 2017, Glenn Briers (owner of clothing company, Lambretta) was ordered to pay his ex-wife, Nicola, £2.7 million – 12 years after their divorce had taken place. When they divorced in 2005, the couple had agreed between themselves that Nicola should receive the family home which was worth £600,000, a £10,000 annual salary and child maintenance for their three children. When they divorced Mr Briers’ clothing company was worth £1million. In the intervening years it grew to a £30million business, with a chain of high street shops. This increased wealth was the basis of the new financial settlement.
Both Mr Vince and Mr Briers thought they had an agreement with their former spouses but, to their detriment, had failed to have these set out in a Financial Remedy Order. Accordingly, neither had secured a clean break divorce settlement, which would have closed the door to further financial claims. Issues like the length of time since the divorce, or the fact that children are now grown up do not matter in the eyes of the court. In cases where one spouse’s wealth has increased significantly since the divorce, again, it does not matter that the wealth was accrued after the divorce. It is also important to note that a court order for maintenance payments for life will only end if the spouse receiving the payments remarries.
Not only did both have to pay their former spouses, they also have incurred significant legal costs in litigating the issues – costs which would have been far lower if legal advice was sought at the time of their respective divorces.
So, what does this mean for other divorced and divorcing couples?
For people contemplating divorce the most important thing is to take legal advice from an experienced divorce lawyer early to ensure that your interests are protected. The issues faced in both of these cases could have been avoided with a clean break financial settlement.
Even if it seems possible to reach an informal agreement between you, as the Briers case shows, if that decision is not created in a legally binding way, then further financial claims can be made – and there is no time limit on this.
If you are already divorced and are worried that you may be liable for future financial claims, you should take legal advice to establish if a clean break settlement was reached. If it wasn’t there may be a possibility to secure one. Alternatively, if you feel like you may be in a position where you think you are entitled to increase your divorce settlement, an experienced lawyer will be able to outline your options.
Divorce can be an incredibly painful time, but there is lots of advice and support available. Stephens Scown has created a guide to divorce which outlines your options and includes some great practical advice from our clients who have been through the process. You can download it for free here.
If you require any assistance with Divorce payments please feel free to contact our family team.