Posted by Simon Bassett, Partner
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Resolution: We need legal reform following Vince/Wyatt case
Family law association, Resolution, has claimed the highly publicised financial claim made by the former wife of a green energy boss shows the need for legal reform.
Resolution, which represents family lawyers, said Vince v Wyatt was “an illustration of the need for reform of the law around divorce finance”.
The Supreme Court announced Kathleen Wyatt’s claim against Dale Vince was valid and should return to the family courts.
The couple separated in 1984 and formally divorced eight years later. In the time since their relationship ended, Kathleen Wyatt’s former husband has gone from a New Age traveller to a multi-millionaire owner of energy firm Ecotricity.
Resolution chair Jo Edwards said it was important to protect people who have acquired wealth from “potentially opportunistic claims” years after the end of a marriage.
She said: “It is important that people who have become wealthy over time are not exposed to potentially opportunistic claims many years after a marriage has broken down.
“We want to see reform of the law around financial provision on divorce. Part of that is a desire for greater clarity and a clearer intention to get couples to financial independence sooner.
“It will be interesting to see how the court now approaches Ms Wyatt’s substantive claim, with clear indications from Lord Wilson of the likely limits of her claim in view of the facts of this case.
“If she had pursued her financial claims at the time of separation, there would likely have been a capital clean break at that point and no ability to come back and claim more now. It seems unlikely that she will be able to sustain a needs-based claim.
“She is more likely to succeed on the basis of her contributions through caring for the children after the marriage breakdown, but her delay in bringing a claim may well dictate otherwise.
“We are rightly proud of the broad discretion which the family courts have in England and Wales and the ability to tailor outcomes to families.
“However, critics would say that we need to inject a greater degree of certainty into outcomes in family cases, and in doing so reduce the extent and cost of litigation associated with the broad discretion we have”.
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