rhw’s family law team commented on the outcome of the Wyatt v Vince case back in 2015, with regard to the limitation of financial claim in divorce proceedings. Since then the judgment in the case of Waudby v Aldhouse has also added to case law in this area.
In the Waudby case the wife began proceedings for a financial remedy approximately twenty years after she and her husband split. Whereas Kathleen Wyatt received £300,000 the wife in Waudby v Aldhouse did not receive anything. Orders for the payment by the husband to her of a lump sum of £10,000 and maintenance of £9576 per annum were discharged, after an appeal by the husband.
Why should there be a variation in the outcomes of what look like two similar cases? Well without going into massive detail, the Waudby v Aldhouse case has a considerably more complex history both personally, in terms of their relationship and financially. The full judgement is worth reading and is quite controversial.
Stepping back a little further, many people at the time expressed an interest in the case of Wyatt -v- Vince, in which the ex-wife of an energy supplier had been successful in her application to proceed with a financial claim against her former husband, even though it is more than 20 years since their divorce. Of particular interest is the fact that the husband’s fortune (he is worth over £100 million) appears to have been built up after the parties’ divorce.
Before you are tempted to return to the Courts expecting a windfall thinking you may be another Kathleen Wyatt, it is worth considering the following points.
There are two common misconceptions attached to a lot of claims about financial claims made after the divorce. The first is that the statute of limitations, as it is more commonly understood, applies to matrimonial claims – it doesn’t. There is no time bar upon when divorced parties can bring financial claims against one another, and this case underlines that fact.
The second is that this case means that any divorced party can bring a financial claim against their ex-spouse even many decades after the divorce – it doesn’t – unless the parties have not yet had a completed financial order in the Court. The important point about the case of Wyatt -v- Vince is that the wife had never previously brought a financial claim against her husband.
So, to all of those people who are wondering whether they can now make a second financial claim against their former spouse, or who are wondering whether they are about to receive another claim from a former spouse, this is not going to happen (except in the limited circumstances relating to a variation of a maintenance claim).
Even so, the arguments over whether a limitation period for financial claims in divorces should be introduced keeps sneaking back onto the news agenda. As we have already stated, the vast majority of financial claims are dealt with at the time of the divorce and it’s unusual to have the issue come up years after. Although in many ways both the ‘Wyatt’ and ‘Waudby’ cases are interesting, they don’t really break any new ground. Both merely restates principles that are already well known.
Elizabeth Leah and Julian McEvoy – rhw Solicitors LLP
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