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  1. Wealth
May 13, 2013

Ex-Spouses Can't Claim Future Fortunes, says Lawyer in Dale Vince Divorce Case

By Spear's

Too often courts rule that wealthy parties should pay simply because they can pay, but green energy boss Dale Vince’s defeat of his ex-wife’s financial claim is a welcome change

Following endless headlines about London being the divorce capital of the world —because of the courts’ perceived generosity towards divorcing women — UHNW men will enjoy a rare slice of good news from London’s High Court.

Dale Vince, the founder of green energy business Ecotricity, has struck out a financial claim brought by his ex-wife 20 years after their divorce, meaning that the wealthy are less likely to be spooked by skeletons in their closets in future.

On which side of the pond should you seek your divorce?

Vince’s solicitor, the ebullient Davina Hay, head of the family department at Schillings, says that the trouble centred on the fact that dissolving a marriage is separate to settling financial claims on divorce.

Vince’s former spouse, Kathleen Wyatt, claimed that when the couple separated in 1984 they dissolved their marriage but did not settle financial claims as they were living on benefits at the time and could never have foreseen Vince would make £90 million.

The original court files from 1992 were, of course, destroyed, leaving the situation open to interpretation and making it Vince’s word against Wyatt’s.

But Lord Justice Thorpe ordered on Wednesday that Ms Wyatt’s claim for a housing fund and capitalized lifetime maintenance be struck out because, at the time when she should have brought her claim, neither party had any money and both were in relationships with new partners.

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Green energy tycoon Dale Vince will not have to pay maintenance to his ex-wife, who he divorced in 1992

‘The facts of this case are extreme,’ he said in the Court of Appeal. ‘Impecuniosity has been the experience of all of the wife’s adult life. Both the men with whom she has entered into family life were seemingly equally impecunious.

‘Her husband was the most improbable candidate for affluence. The wife no doubt can appeal to his sense of charity but in my judgment he is not to be compelled to boost the wife’s income by the exercise of the jurisdiction under the Matrimonial Clauses Act 1973. He is not her insurer against life’s eventualities.’

Indeed, Hay, listed in the leading Family lawyers index published by Spear’s last month, agrees.

‘This was an ill-conceived claim which should never have been brought. Too often the divorce courts in this country take the view that wealthy parties should pay simply because they can pay.

‘This judgment injects a welcome dose of principled legal reasoning. Mr Vince understandably expected that having separated from his ex-wife in 1984 when he was a penniless 22 year old, he should not be required to pay her a vast sum of money simply because years after she divorced him in 1992, he had built a successful business.’

Read more by Freddy Barker

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