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Kent lawyer warns divorcing couples that payout case is a wake-up call

Contributed by editor on Jun 29, 2016 - 06:05 PM

 

Green energy tycoon Dale Vince hit the headlines earlier this month when he agreed to pay his ex-wife Kathleen Wyatt a financial settlement of £300,000 – nearly 25 years after their divorce.

 

 

Mr Vince ended up not only paying a £300,000 settlement to Mrs Wyatt but also £200,000 towards the costs of the Supreme Court appeal and another £125,000  .....

 

Yet the founder of Ecotricity, a company worth an estimated £57 million, could have avoided the payout had he sought a financial remedy order at the time the couple separated, says divorce law specialist Susi Gillespie (pictured above).

Stark warning

 

“The outcome of this case is a stark warning to other couples contemplating separation,” adds Susi, an Associate at Kent law firm Furley Page. “People think that obtaining a Decree Absolute is the end of it but that’s just evidence that the marriage is over and doesn’t bring an end to financial claims.

“It doesn’t matter whether you divorce in your 20s and return with a claim when you’re 80, there’s no time limit under the law. Without achieving finality at the time of your divorce by incorporating your agreement, however large or small, into a financial order for approval by the court then it could come back to bite you decades later.”

Young couples - most at risk

 

Young couples divorcing after short marriages are most at risk because their financial positions are likely to improve later in life, says Susi.

“Kathleen Wyatt and Dale Vince are a good example. They were in their early 20s and living as new age travellers when they married in 1981. They separated in 1984 and divorced in 1992. He went on to found Ecotricity and now lives the millionaire lifestyle in an 18th-century castle; she brought up the couple’s two children while mainly living on benefits.

“She initially sought £1.9 million from Mr Vince but her claim was struck out by the Court of Appeal. A lengthy legal battle ensued over whether her claim could proceed, which Mrs Wyatt later won in the Supreme Court,” explains Susi.

“The couple eventually agreed a financial remedy order and Mr Vince ended up not only paying a £300,000 settlement to Mrs Wyatt but also £200,000 towards the costs of the Supreme Court appeal and another £125,000 towards Mrs Wyatt’s original High Court costs. How much Mrs Wyatt will actually receive is uncertain because of outstanding legal bills.”

 

Salutary lesson

Mr Vince and Mrs Wyatt’s situation is a salutary lesson for all divorcing couples, warns Susi. “They didn’t have any assets to divide at the time of their divorce so they didn’t think it was necessary to agree an order dismissing their financial claims against each.

“Frustratingly for Mr Vince, had they done so, he would have saved himself £625,000 plus his own costs (which are likely to be staggering), not to mention the stress of five years of legal wrangling.

“While not all of us will be entrepreneurial enough to develop a company with the value of Ecotricity, this case underlines how vital it is to get independent legal advice at the time of your separation or divorce to prevent claims being pursued years later.”

Susi Gillespie is part of Furley Page’s Family Law Team and a fully qualified Collaborative Lawyer, which means she can offer clients a cost-effective alternative method of resolving family disputes without having to go to court. She is also a member of Resolution, an organisation of 5,700 family lawyers who believe in a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law matters.

For further advice, contact Susi on 01227 763939 or email her at sjg@furleypage.co.uk To find out more about Furley Page’s full range of services, visit www.furleypage.co.uk   
 

 

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