Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wyatt v Vince: Supreme Court - appeal allowed

The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has today allowed the wife's appeal in Wyatt v Vince.

The Issue
Application of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, s.23 and its relationship with the Family Procedure Rules 2010 ("FPR"), rule 4.4(1)(a) (no reasonable grounds for application) and (b) (abuse of court's process).

The Facts
The parties married on 18 December 1981. The Wife came into the marriage with a daughter from a previous relationship, E (DOB: 22 January 1979). Husband (who accepted E as part of the family) and Wife had their only child together, D (male), on 2 May 1981. The date of separation is disputed. Husband says it is 1984 whereas the Wife says it was some years later. The Wife applied for a divorce which was made absolute on 26 October 1992. At the time of divorce neither Husband nor Wife had assets or income. The Wife remained primary carer of E and D. Following divorce, but before E and D attained majority, the Husband formed a company which has been hugely successful. The Wife claims that the Husband has provided virtually no financial support since their separation. Further, she claims that despite her best efforts she was unable until 2010 to advance her claims for financial relief. The Wife describes that she was let down by the legal profession having visited four different Solicitors in 1984, 1992, 1996 and 2002.

The wife appealed against the decision of the Court of Appeal allowing the husband's appeal against the refusal of his application under rule 4.4 to strike out the wife's financial remedy application, which had been made over 18 years after decree absolute.

The Decision
The wife's appeal was allowed. Handing down the judgment, Lord Wilson said that it was wrong to insinuate a test analogous to summary judgment (i.e. whether there was a real prospect of success) into the family rules, as the Court of Appeal had done. In any event, there was a real prospect that the wife would secure a comparatively modest award.

A press summary of the judgment is available here, and the full judgment here.

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