Wyatt v Vince: the importance of making a ‘clean break’

Wyatt v Vince: the importance of making a ‘clean break’

As a family lawyer, I regularly advise clients going through a divorce about the importance of tying up any property and financial loose ends and securing what is known as a ‘clean break’. The same advice applies even when there are no property and financial assets to deal with.

It’s essential to obtain a ‘clean break’ order to ensure you avoid any potential difficulties in the future. This point has been brought into sharp focus by a recent ruling of the Supreme Court in the case of Wyatt v Vince.

What is a ‘clean break’ order?

The making of a ‘clean break’ order means that existing and future financial claims that either party can make against the other are formally dismissed by the court. This in turn means that neither party can pursue financial claims in relation to the marriage against the other in the future.

There is, however, a fundamental principle relating to time limits that applies to financial claims in divorce cases. The principle is that, where financial claims haven’t been dismissed by the court (ie. there has not been a ‘clean break’ order made), it remains open to either party to pursue such claims at any time in the future. In other words, there’s no time limit after which financial claims can no longer be pursued.

Wyatt v Vince

The Supreme Court has recently ruled that Kathleen Wyatt, the former wife of the (now) very wealthy businessman Dale Vince, can pursue her financial claims against him, despite the fact they separated in 1984 and divorced in 1992.

At the time of their separation, and subsequent divorce, they had few if any assets and didn’t have a ‘clean break’ order made by the court. Mr Vince subsequently became a multi-millionaire.

The Supreme Court took the view that Ms Wyatt, while facing a number of difficulties in establishing her claim for a financial order, should be allowed to pursue her claim. Mr Vince was also ordered to provide funds for Ms Wyatt’s legal fees in pursuing the claim.

What this decision means for you

The sobering message from this case is that, regardless of whether there are any assets, the making of a ‘clean break’ order at the time of the divorce is essential if you want to ensure that no claims can possibly be pursued against you in the future.

If you don’t have a ‘clean break’ order in place at the time of the divorce then financial claims, regardless of merit or time, could be made against you.

Need advice? We can help you

Call Mark Reeves today on 01482 324252 for a no-obligation chat.

Or email him here.

Mark is highly skilled in all aspects of divorce, relationship breakdown and children’s law, and has a particular expertise in resolving complex financial disputes. He is a well-known and well-respected figure in the Family Law courts where he has considerable advocacy experience.

Click here to find out more about our Family Law services.

Return to the insights archive »

The content on our site is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content on our site.

Although we make reasonable efforts to update the information on our site, we make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content on our site is accurate, complete or up-to-date.

Click here to view our Terms of Use