Delay in making financial application

Hourglass delay

Following the case of the wind farm millionaire, Wyatt-v-Vince, where the wife successfully obtained a lump sum payment many years after the parties divorced, a more recent one (Waudby-v-Aldhouse) has resulted in a very different outcome.

The background

  • the parties were married in 1982
  • they did not have any children
  • they separated in 1994

Although Mrs Alhouse issued divorce proceedings shortly after separation, she did not pursue any financial claims against Mr Waudby at the time, trusting instead when he said that he would voluntarily provide for her.

However, despite this Mr Waudby did not provide any financial support. Perhaps significantly, at the time of the divorce, both parties were bankrupt.

During the following 20 years, and despite on-going health difficulties, Mrs Aldhouse had a variety of part-time and full-time roles in employment, self-employment and as a director of her own limited company.

She had been able to buy a car and a house and had survived without any financial support from Mr Waudby. She was also in a cohabiting relationship for four or five years.

By 2014, Mrs Aldhouse’s financial circumstances had deteriorated, triggered by a reduction in her ill-health pension payments, leaving her with a shortfall in her monthly income of £798. She issued an application for financial help from her former husband.

Initially, the wife was successful and was awarded a lump sum of £10,000 and spousal maintenance of £9,576 per annum. Mrs Aldhouse’s ill health was central to the award, but she produced no expert evidence to prove it.

Appeal

Mr Waudby appealed successfully, with the original ruling being replaced by an Order which simply dismissed all financial claims that either party had against the other, the so-called financial clean break.

The judge who heard the appeal decided that Mrs Aldhouse had failed to prove that her needs were caused by the marriage. This contrasted in the Wyatt case where the judge found the ex-wife’s earning capacity had been limited by the fact that she had care of the parties’ son as he grew up. Furthermore, the husband’s assets had accumulated since the divorce and the Court found that the wife had made no contribution towards them.

Every case is looked at individually

This case demonstrates that all cases hinge on their own facts and there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to financial claims following divorce. Just because one applicant was successful in obtaining a significant lump sum many years after the divorce does not mean all such cases will be successful.

Unlike other civil court claims, there is no time limit within which claim for financial relief must be made. So, making a claim for financial orders many years after separation is still possible. However, a long-ago divorce applicant will need to demonstrate not simply a financial need, but also that the need was caused by the marriage.

If you are in any doubt about the financial impact of divorce or want to consider seeking a financial clean break order, please contact our Family team who would be happy to advise you.

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