Importance of securing a binding financial settlement
In the case of Wyatt v Vince the Court considered the Wife’s application for financial remedy, 19 years after the parties divorced.
The Husband and Wife were married in 1981.
There was one child of the marriage, D, who was born in 1983.
During the party’s marriage, the Husband had treated the wife’s daughter from a previous relationship as a child of the family.
The parties subsequently separated in 1984, with a Decree Absolute being pronounced in 1992.
Upon separation, the Husband began a life as a traveller for 8 years. The Husband did not pay maintenance following separation as he could not afford to pay it.
The Wife continued to care for the children, struggling to maintain a home for them in circumstances of real hardship.
The Wife subsequently entered into a new relationship and had two more children.
In the late 1990’s, the Husband set up a new company, which had a value of £57 million at the time of the proceedings.
Therefore, at this time, the Husband was able to provide substantial maintenance for D (when he was coming towards the end of his minority).
In 2001, D went to live with the Husband.
The Wife issued an application for financial orders in 2011. The Wife sought for the Husband to pay a lump sum to her, as well as make interim periodical payments in sums equal to the estimated costs of the application.
The Husband applied for the Wife’s application to be struck out.
The Judge dismissed the Husband’s application and ordered him to make interim periodical payments, totalling £125,000.00 directly to the Wife’s solicitors.
The Husband appealed.
The Court of Appeal set aside the Order of the Judge and struck out the Wife’s application, making a repayment Order requiring the repayment of any monies paid in respect of the cost order.
The Court of Appeal held that the Wife’s application had no real prospect of success and abused the Court process.
The Wife appealed.
The issues for determination were whether the Judge had the power to strike out a spouse’s application for financial order and whether the Court of Appeal had erred in having it struck out.
The Appeal was allowed.
It was considered that the Court of Appeal had been wrong to have insinuated an application for a financial order would have no prospect of success, it held the application did not represent an abuse of the process.
However, although the Wife’s appeal against the strike out would succeed and her application proceed, her application would be faced with difficulties. This is because the martial cohabitation subsisted for scarcely more than two years and the marriage had broken down 31 years ago. Therefore, the Wife had delayed in making her application.
It was unclear whether the Wife would be able to support her claim on the basis of need. However, the Wife did have a powerful argument of contributions given she had cared for the children.
The Court directed a Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing, before a Judge of the Family Division.
The Judge imposed the time estimate of the substantive hearing and directed the fixing of dates for it.
The allocated Judge decided which issues needed full investigation and inserted the time for cross examination.
In respect of the costs order, the Wife already owed her solicitors around £88,000.00 for the work undertaken in respect of the application (in which her ultimate recovery from the Husband was likely to be modest and even on-existent).
It was held that it was unreasonable to consider the solicitors should continue to act for the Wife, on an extended credit basis, against a litigious Husband who had caused a substantial increase in costs.
Accordingly, the Judge’s cost allowance order was resorted and the Court of Appeal’s repayment Order set aside.
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