Wife can fight for divorce settlement - 20 years after the split

Sarah Coles
Dale Vince divorce case
Dale Vince divorce case

Kathleen Wyatt has been given permission to fight for a share of her ex-husband's fortune - despite the fact that they were divorced more than 20 years ago, and he made his millions after the pair split.

Dale Vince (53) and 55-year-old Wyatt were married in the 1980s, and had a son together. They were divorced in 1992, and he set up wind-power company Ecotricity in 1995. He is now worth an estimated £107 million, and Wyatt argues that she should be entitled to a share of the money.

The pair have had their share of legal wrangles over this already. The Daily Mail reported that Wyatt lodged a claim for maintenance in 2011, but it was blocked by the Court of Appeal after Vince argued that too much time had passed since the divorce for the claim to be made. Now the Supreme Court has ruled that she has the right to apply for a share of his fortune.

According to the BBC, Lord Wilson said the court must have regard "to the contribution of each party to the welfare of the family, including by looking after the home or caring for the family". In effect it means the court will take into account the 16 years she spent raising her son when she received little financial assistance from her ex-husband - despite his growing wealth. However, the court made it clear that she would be highly unlikely to receive as much as the £1.9 million she wanted.
What does it mean?

This couple isn't the first to have a settlement long after their divorce. Perhaps most famously, Euromillions winner Nigel Page discovered the rules after his win in 2010. He won £56 million on the lottery, and despite the fact that his ex-wife had left him ten years earlier, he gave her a £2 million share of the money. His former wife didn't have to take him to court for the cash, because the pair agreed an out-of-court settlement.

This latest case is considered important by divorce lawyers, because it reinforces the fact that there is no time limit for ex-spouses to claim money after a divorce. This has always been the case, but this establishes that 'no time limit' stretches to 22 years .

Elizabeth Hicks, a leading divorce lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said: "The case highlights the importance of ensuring that all financial matters are finalised at the time of divorce and a court order is obtained. Otherwise it could lead to future claims to a share of the wealth earned after the divorce."

She added: "While any good divorce lawyer should ensure that all financial matters are finalised and immune to future claims, it is crucial that any divorcees who don't have financial orders in place review their situation as they may now face claims against them based on wealth acquired after the divorce."

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