Wyatt v Vince

The parties were “new age travellers” and married in 1981 the wife already had a daughter and they had one son together. In 1984 the husband left and in 1992 he was ordered to pay maintenance to the wife for the children. They divorced in 1992.

No financial settlement was ever made between them. By 2011 the wife was living on benefits in a council house while the husband had created a company worth £57 million. The wife applied to the court for a settlement of £1.9 million and asked for a lump sum from the husband to pay her legal fees.

At the first hearing the husband was ordered to pay £125,000 to the wife’s solicitors on account of her legal costs.

The husband appealed and the Court of Appeal dismissed the wife’s application for a settlement and ordered that the £125,000 for costs be repaid.

The wife appealed to the Supreme Court who allowed her application for a lump sum to proceed and reinstated the costs order.

The husband’s argument was that her claim should be struck out on the basis that she had no reasonable prospects of success and that her claim was an abuse of the courts process. The Supreme Court ruled, however, that striking out her claim without considering further details (summary judgement) was incompatible with “the meticulous duty cast upon family courts by s25 the Matrimonial Causes Act 1972”.

There is no Summary Judgement power contained in the Family Proceedings Rules 2010 and it cannot be insinuated in financial remedy proceedings.

The court identified two magnetic factors which they said were pulling in opposite directions

Firstly, the wife’s delay in bringing her claim and secondly, the fact that she bore the main burden of caring for the children without (on the wife’s account) any substantial assistance from husband.

The wife’s application for a settlement is yet to be heard.

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