In a case reminiscent of the recent landmark decision in
Wyatt v Vince , the ex-wife of the founder of a
popular clothing chain has successfully claimed against her
husband's assets some 10 years after pronouncement of Decree
The decision in Wyatt saw an ex-wife successfully claim
some of her ex-husband's £55 million fortune, which was
accumulated many years after their divorce, on the basis that they
had never formally dismissed their financial claims against each
other. This decision sent shockwaves throughout the legal world.
Many lawyers anticipated that the outcome would open the floodgates
to a plethora of similar claims, or give rise to a high number of
ex-spouses seeking to avoid such claims being made against them by
entering into a Financial Order post-divorce. The outcome of this
more recent case demonstrates that the decision in Wyatt
is being followed and that many more ex-spouses who failed to enter
into a formal settlement agreement at the time of divorce are open
to the same risk.
Mr Briers was working as a full-time teacher when he started up
a sports and street wear business in the garage of the family home
in 1988 with just £81 of his own money. By the time he split
with his wife and fellow teacher, Nicola Briers in 2002, after 18
years of marriage and three children, the business was turning over
£1 million a year. It has since grown into a major fashion
chain, incorporating well-known brands such as Lambretta and
turning over up to £30 million a year.
When the couple divorced in 2005, Mr Briers paid his wife a lump
sum of £150,000 to pay off the existing mortgage on the
family home which was then transferred into her sole name. It was
also agreed that she would receive a £10,000 per year income
plus child maintenance while Mr Briers retained his business. Mr
Briers asserts that this arrangement took the form of a
''verbal agreement" between the parties in which it
was agreed that there would be a clean break between them. No
formal settlement agreement was ever entered into.
Mrs Briers then exercised her right to apply for a Financial
Remedy Order against Mr Briers some 10 years later. Her claim was
eligible on the basis that neither party's right to make a
financial claim against the assets of the other had ever been
Mr Briers argued that Mrs Briers had been given the bulk of all
matrimonial assets at the time of separation including the family
home. This excluded the business which he argued did not constitute
a marital asset for reason that Mrs Briers' involvement in the
business was negligible and that it was his own money that was used
to set up and fund the business as opposed to money from the
The judge held that the business was in fact a matrimonial asset
which was therefore undivided at the time of separation and to
which the wife was entitled and also in recognition of her
significant contribution as primary carer of the couple's three
children. The judge valued the wife's entitlement at £2.7
million which gives her 27 per cent of the assets. This is a
significant departure from the usual 50/50 assets split, however,
the judge held that it represented "a fair
The decision in Briers is further evidence of the importance of
obtaining a Financial Order which dismisses all future financial
claims at the time of divorce rather than leaving
matters to chance.
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