UK: Financial Remedy – Why Not To Throw Caution To The Wind

Last Updated: 16 May 2016
Article by Ronald Fletcher Baker LLP

Our Family law solicitors based in our London City and West End explore the implications for financial arrangements arising out of divorce proceedings following the Supreme Court decision in Wyatt v Vince 2015 UKSC 14.

In this case the Supreme Court allowed an ex-wife to bring a claim against her ex-husband 22 years after being divorced. The couple were penniless at the time but years later Mr Vince made a fortune in the renewable energy business while Ms Wyatt and the children endured a life on the bread line. At the time of the divorce their financial arrangements had not been settled by a court order, giving Ms Wyatt the prospect of a claim years later.

Ms Wyatt still faces an uphill struggle in making her claim, and is unlikely to receive anywhere near the 1.9 million pounds she asked for, but Mr Vince still has to face the claim and incur huge costs in doing so. The case highlights the importance of putting in place legally binding financial settlements at the time of divorce, even if it appears then that there are no assets to speak of. Parties are then enabled to move on without fear of claims in later life.

We look at some of the legal issues in more detail in the analysis below. It is strongly advisable that if you have been though the process of a divorce in the past and do not have financial order (usually called a "consent order") you review the position in light of this development.

Analysis of Wyatt v Vince UKSC 14


The Supreme Court considered this appeal made by Ms Wyatt against her former husband Mr Vince, who is now a multi-millionaire.

Ms Wyatt and Mr Vince met and married in 1981 and had one child together Dane, now aged 31. Mr Vince also treated Ms Wyatt's daughter Emily from a previous relationship as a child of their family. The parties separated in 1984 and were eventually divorced in 1992. After the divorce Ms Wyatt subsisted on state benefits or when her health allowed, on wages earned during periods of low paid employment. She also went on to have two more children. The three adult children who resided with her could only make modest financial contributions to the running of the house and they were living in a local authority property in Monmouth which had fallen into disrepair.

In contrast, Mr Vince spent a few years after the divorce living as a new-age traveller and developing his long standing interest in green energy. In 1996 he installed his first wind turbine and formed the company 'Ecotricity Group Ltd'. This company now provides green electricity throughout the UK to at least 70,000 homes and businesses and is estimated to be worth £57m.

In 2011 Ms Wyatt applied to the court for financial relief from her former husband. She applied for a lump sum payment of £1.9 million and interim payments to fund her legal costs.

It was accepted by the court that the original court file from 1992 had been lost and that no order for financial remedy had been made. It was also accepted that Ms Wyatt was in poor health.

In response Mr Vince applied to have her claim struck out on the basis that her case had no merit, was unreasonable and an abuse of legal process. In contrast to the Civil Procedure Rules, the Family Procedure Rules did not have a provision for summary judgment.

The High Court dismissed Mr Vince's application and accepted that he had not provided adequate child support for his son, or maintenance for Ms Wyatt. On occasion he had given her £200 per month and had provided her with some second hand cars. The High Court awarded Ms Wyatt an interim costs allowance payment of £31,250 per month for four months. Mr Vince then appealed this decision to the Court of Appeal who struck out Ms Wyatt's application and ordered her to repay part of the money received. Ms Wyatt then appealed this decision to the Supreme Court, the highest court of England & Wales.

The Legal Issues

On the legal issues and in particular the strike out application on the basis that the application did not have a reasonable prospect of success, the Supreme Court carefully considered the Family Procedure rules against its parent being the Civil Procedure Rules. At paragraph 19 Lord Wilson summarised the position as follows:

"...The family rules came into force on 6 April 2011 and, prior to the decision of the Court of Appeal in the present case, there was no reported authority on the construction of Rule 4.4. So far as is material, the rule, which does not apply to proceedings in relation to children, provides:

"(1) ...the court may strike out a statement of case if it appears to the court –

  1. that the statement of case discloses no reasonable grounds for bringing or defending the application;
  2. that the statement of case is an abuse of the court's process or is otherwise likely to obstruct the just disposal of the proceedings ..."

In considering the construction of the words "no reasonable grounds" and "abuse of the court's process" , the Court relied on Practice direction 4A which provided that:

"2.1 The following are examples of cases where the court may conclude that an application falls within rule 4.4(1)(a) –

  1. those which set out no facts indicating what the application is about;
  2. those which are incoherent and make no sense;
  3. those which contain a coherent set of facts but those facts, even if true, do not disclose any legally recognisable application against the respondent.

2.2 An application may fall within rule 4.4(1)(b) where it cannot be justified, for example because it is frivolous, scurrilous or obviously ill-founded."

The test for striking out a claim under 4.4 was not analogous to the summary judgment test in the civil jurisdiction. Jackson LJ was wrong "to insinuate into the concept of abuse of process in Rule 4.4(1)(b) of the family rules an application for a financial order which has no real prospect of success". Its omission from the family procedure rules was deliberate.

Further the meticulous duty of the family courts pursuant to section 25 (1) Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 was inconsistent with the concept of summary judgement as it was necessary for the Family Courts in determining the application to have consideration of all of the circumstances including the eight matters of 25 (2) Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

The Supreme Court found that Rule 4.4(1) of the family rules has to be construed without reference to real prospects of success test and granted Ms Wyatt's application to appeal

The Court went on to comment obiter on some foreseeable difficulties with the application.

The Factual observations

The relationship broke down 31 years ago and the marital cohabitation lasted for scarcely more than 2 years. Mr Vince did not begin to create his wealth until 13 years after the marital breakdown and Ms Wyatt made no direct or indirect contribution to the creation of this wealth.

The amount Ms Wyatt is claiming £1.9m is excessive and unlikely to be awarded, but the court recognises that she has raised some valid and significant points. She had made the sole financial contribution to the welfare of the family, specifically her care of Dane for a period of 16 years after the separation and also for Emily from 1984 to 1994 and 1995 to 1997 when she became an adult, continuing in her adulthood.

The Supreme Court ruled that Ms Wyatt should be given the opportunity to argue why Mr Vince should now financially assist her. This does not mean that Ms Wyatt will receive a substantial settlement, or even that she will receive a settlement at all.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions