The Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favour of Kathleen Wyatt today in a landmark decision which enables her to pursue her claim for a share of her ex-husband’s multi-million pound fortune, a fortune he accrued some 10 years after they separated.
The pair had met in their early 20s and lived a New Age lifestyle until their divorce in the early 90s. Mr Vince went on to found green energy firm Ecotricity.
In 2011 Ms Wyatt made an application for financial provision in the form of a lump sum. She also applied for interim payments to fund her legal costs. Mr Vince sought to have Ms Wyatt’s substantive application struck out pursuant to Rule 4.4 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010 which provides:
“(1) … the court may strike out a statement of case if it appears to the court –
a) that the statement of case discloses no reasonable grounds for bringing or defending the application;
b) 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 …”
On 14 December 2012 a deputy High Court judge dismissed Mr Vince’s strike-out application and ordered him to make interim periodical payments in respect of legal costs directly to Ms Wyatt’s solicitors . Mr Vince appealed, successfully, to the Court of Appeal to have the deputy judge’s orders set aside. The Court of Appeal struck out Ms Wyatt’s application for financial provision and ordered her to repay part of the money received under the costs allowance order. She appealed to the Supreme Court.
When considering Rule 4.4, the Supreme Court found that Ms Wyatt’s application was “legally recognisable” and not an “abuse of process”. But the court considered a reward as high as the £1.9m she was claiming would be “out of the question” and she was likely to receive a “comparatively modest award.”
The case will now be returned for hearing at the Family Division of the High Court.