The Curious Case of the Zombie Divorce Claim
Pam Arrowsmith specialist family lawyer says that “In any divorce it is always best advice that there should be an Order finalising financial and property issues between the parties.”
The case of Vince –v- Wyatt hit the headlines in 2015 when the Supreme Court held that an ex-wife could bring a claim for financial relief against her ex-husband some 19 years after the divorce.
The circumstances of Vince and Wyatt were that the husband and wife separated and divorced when both were in receipt of State Benefits. They had one young child from their marriage. They did not have a Clean Break Order possibly because neither had any income or assets at that time. The wife never remarried and this factor is crucial: had she remarried she would have automatically been barred from bringing any claims against her ex-husband.
In 1997 Mr Vincent began making considerable money and became a multi millionaire in the windfarm industry. The ex-wife made an application for financial relief in 2011 when ex-husband’s company was then worth 57 million pounds. After the Supreme Court held that the ex-wife could make a claim even after that length of delay, the parties finally and by agreement reached a financial Consent Order with a lump sum payment to the ex-wife of £300,000.00.
Another recent case involved a lady married in 1978 and separated in approximately 1998 with her husband bringing divorce proceedings against her in 2001. They had two children together the younger of whom was still in primary school at the time of the divorce. The wife, who shall be referred to as Amanda had no legal advice at the time. In 1998 she had transferred her joint interest in the former matrimonial home to her ex-husband for no payment at all. She had received no legal advice about this in 1998.
She had no legal advice during the subsequent divorce proceedings commenced by husband. Amanda stated that when she signed over the matrimonial home and during the divorce, she was still suffering from anxiety and stress from the separation, from the difficulties that she had experienced during the marriage and the overall effect that her ex-husband had had upon her during the marriage which subsequently meant that he always made the decisions. She said that she had only recently felt that she could think clearly. She asked for advice on whether there was any possibility that she could open up the financial and property issues between herself and her ex-husband.
When contacting the court it was confirmed that no clean break order had been made during the divorce and so Amanda was advised of this and her solicitor wrote immediately to her ex-husband indicating that Amanda was intending to make a claim. Remarkably as a result of that one letter, her ex-husband offered her £50,000.00 which Amanda accepted.
These type of cases have been nicknamed in some circles as “Zombie” cases as they come back from the dead after several years.
What was important in Amanda’s case was that she was likely to have received an award had she started proceedings when the divorce was going through.
This was not so in the recent case of Waudby –v- Aldhouse where the Court made no award to the ex-wife following a divorce in 1995 and the claim by the ex-wife over 20 years later. The Court decided in this case that had the wife made her application when the divorce was ongoing it was likely that the Court would have made no Order in her favour.
Pam Arrowsmith says “It is always best to seek independent legal advice before transferring any interest in property or before divorce proceedings are finalised. Even if no Order was made during the course of divorce proceedings, it is still possible to bring financial claims many years after the divorce.”
For further information please contact Pam Arrowsmith or Alex Carr on 0121 227 3850 or