The former wife of an executive at travel firm TUI (the former Mr and Mrs Waggott) is today reported as demanding a share of Mr Waggott’s future earnings on top of a £10 million divorce pay-out.
The couple were married for 21 years, after which the marriage ended following Mr Waggott’s infidelity. Having divorced and received the substantial pay-out, Mrs Waggott now argues that she should be entitled to share in the of the fruits of her ex-husband’s career post-divorce.
There have been similar cases in the English press over the past few years including the case of Kathleen Wyatt and Dale Vince. They had been married for two years and at the time of separation had both been living as new age travellers and had no money. However, several years after they divorced Mr Vince founded the green energy company Ecotricity valued at around £57 million by 2015. Ms Wyatt was given permission by the Supreme Court to lodge a financial claim and eventually received a capital sum of £300, 000.
Could such a situation arise in Scotland?
The legal position in Scotland of divorcees is quite different to that of England. In Scotland, the ethos is very much upon any financial provision recognising the efforts of the parties during their marriage, and ultimately affecting a clean break. It is common for parties to negotiate a settlement which settlement is embodied in a contract known as a Minute of Agreement. Thereafter, and once divorced, the scope for a divorcee to seek to revisit the terms of settlement are scant. If, however, parties are unable to negotiate a settlement and their case requires to be decided by a court, it is possible in certain circumstances to revisit certain matters. In particular a court, post-divorce, an order can be made for ongoing financial support (known as periodical allowance) where no such order has been made previously and there has been a change in circumstance. Such a circumstance could be a spouse being diagnosed with a long-term illness impacting upon their ability to earn, or a child of the marriage becoming ill so that one parent requires to give up work to look after them. Further, if the court does make an order for periodical allowance within the initial action for divorce, that order can be varied post-divorce again based on a material change of circumstance. That said, these provisions are rarely used, most likely because the majority of cases do ultimately settle outwith court. Court orders for payment of a capital sum or transfer of property cannot generally be revisited other than where a fraud has been committed or if the payer becomes bankrupt.
Whilst Scots law may seem somewhat harsh in its severing of financial ties, it is apparent that there is a move in England to overhaul English family law to bring it in line with that of Scots law. The Times reported at the beginning of this month that senior judicial figures in England have called for an end to “unjust and outdated divorce laws in England” including the end of the so-called “meal ticket for life” maintenance awards.