You divorced a long time ago, and you and your ex- have moved on with your lives. Then you find that he (or she) has become rich. They have won the Euromillions Lottery, or have received a big inheritance, or have built up a successful business. Can you claim a slice of this?
The answer is yes, you can bring a claim, unless your right to claim has been specifically ended by a court order. This is what happened in a recent case which was widely reported, involving Dale Vince and his ex-wife Kathleen Wyatt. Mr Vince and Ms Wyatt married when they were young and poor, they had a son and then separated, and divorced 20 years ago. Mr Vince went on to found Ecotricity and to become a multimillionaire. When they had divorced they did not get a court order ending the rights of each of them to claim on the other’s finances in future – like many people in such a situation, it seems they felt there was no point because at that time there was nothing to claim against.
Ms Wyatt later applied to the court for a payment from her ex. Mr Vince’s lawyers argued that she should not be allowed to pursue this, because it all happened so long ago. The case went all the way to the highest court in the UK, the Supreme Court. There on 11th March 2015 the justices all said that there is no time limit on making such claims (unlike for most court claims, which have strict time limits), so Ms Wyatt can carry on with her application.
This does not mean that she will necessarily be successful. The Supreme Court made it clear that at best she would probably receive only a very small portion of Mr Vince’s fortune, if that. The High Court will now have to consider various factors and try to come to a fair decision, unless Ms Wyatt and Mr Vince can agree an out-of-court settlement first.
The principle is there though, that if you get divorced then you can still bring a claim against your ex’s finances at any time in the future, unless your right to do so has been specifically ended by a court order. Just agreeing not to bring a claim, or even remarrying, is not guaranteed to be good enough.
If you would like advice on how to deal with financial arrangements on or after a divorce, please contact Laura Srodon on 01242 235202.
These notes are for general guidance only and are not intended to replace proper legal advice. We accept no liability for their application to particular circumstances.