Divorce and Financial Settlements

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The case of Wyatt -v Vince in the Supreme Court is another reminder of the complexities of divorce and financial settlements.

Lord Wilson in the introduction to his judgement said, “The suit for divorce proceeded in the Sunderland County Court and, within weeks of the grant of the decree absolute on 26 October 1992, the court file was transferred to the Gloucester and Cheltenham County Court. But that court has either destroyed or mislaid the file. The current internal instruction to courts is to retain divorce files for 100 years but to allow them to strip them of most documents (including, oddly, the petition) after 18 years from the date of the final order. The fact that not even a stripped file has been found suggests that the whole file has been mislaid. Furthermore neither party presently holds any document relating to the divorce proceedings other than the decree absolute.

In 2011 the wife issued an application within the proceedings for financial orders, in particular for an order that the husband should make payment of a lump sum to her in satisfaction of all her claims. She also applied for an order that the husband should make interim periodical payments to her in sums equal to her estimated costs of the substantive application pursuant to the decision of the Court of Appeal in Currey v Currey (No 2)[2006] EWCA Civ 1338, [2007] 1 FLR 946.

The husband cross-applied for an order that the wife’s substantive application, which had been fixed to be heard for three days beginning on 15 April 2013, be struck out pursuant to Rule 4.4 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010, S1 2010/2955, (“the family rules”). On 14 December 2012 Mr Nicholas Francis QC, sitting as a deputy judge of the High Court, Family Division, dismissed the husband’s cross-application and, on the wife’s application, ordered the husband to make interim periodical payments to her, indeed “directly to [her] solicitors”, at the rate of £31,250 per month for four months (ie a total of £125,000) beginning on 2 January 2013 (“the costs allowance order”). The husband appealed to the Court of Appeal against both orders.

By orders dated 13 June 2013 that court (Thorpe, Jackson and Tomlinson LJJ, [2013] EWCA Civ 495, [2013] 1 WLR 3525), set aside the orders of the deputy judge; struck out the wife’s substantive application; and ordered that, of the £125,000 which by then the husband had paid in full, the wife should repay to him such sum as exceeded the state of her account with her solicitors on 17 January 2013, which amounted to an order for repayment of £36,677 (“the repayment order”). The court explained its striking-out order and its repayment order in judgments delivered on 8 May and 13 June 2013 respectively.”

A huge amount of time, money and grief can be saved by discussing your situation early – even if you didn’t get a prenuptial agreement signed