Is there a time limit for applying for a financial order?
Divorce does not automatically dismiss the right to make an application to court for a financial order in respect of a marriage. Only a court can dismiss that right. For example, an application could be brought some 20 years after divorce, if that right is not dismissed.
This is evidenced by the recent case of Vince-v-Wyatt. In short, when Kathleen, the wife and Dale, the husband, separated and divorced in 1992 neither had any assets of significant value or income. In or around 1995 Dale set up what was to became a very successful multi million pound “wind farm” business. In 2011 Kathleen made an application to court for a financial settlement order (financial remedy). Dale made a counter application to strike out the case. The Judge refused Dale's application and ordered he pay Kathleen's costs. Dale appealed this decision to the court of appeal, which was successful. Kathleen then appealed to the Supreme Court against that decision which was also successful, meaning Dale's strike out application was dismissed and her application could continue. The Court said that her application for a financial order should proceed to a short hearing and one of the judges indicated that she may receive a modest award. This may have been because the wealth had be gained a number of years after the parties had separated and therefore Kathleen had not contributed. Nevertheless, Kathleen received a lump sum when the parties eventually reached an agreement.
One of the most interesting features of the case is the huge 19 year delay in between the divorce and Kathleen making her application to the court for a financial order. Had the parties addressed the issue of finances when divorcing and a Clean Break Consent Order could have been put in place, this would have prevented Kathleen's application and Dale would not have found himself in the situation he did.
It is always advisable to deal with financial matters at the same time as the divorce. More often than not, parties delay finalising their divorce (which simply ends the contract of marriage) by waiting to apply for the final Order, until such time that their Consent Order (for financial matters) has been approved by the court.
If you require any advice in respect of divorce or finances, please do not hesitate to contact me by calling 02476 870 044 or visit our website www.familylawconsultants.co.uk.
Written by Lisa Mohar, Family Law Consultant