The decision of the Supreme Court in London to allow a woman the possibility to claim money 20 years after she divorced her husband simply wouldn't happen in Scotland because of key differences in the legal approach to marriage breakdown across the UK, according to partner and family law specialist Gillian Crandles.

Kathleen Wyatt has been allowed the opportunity to make a claim for cash from her millionaire ex-husband Dale Vince even though they separated in the 1980s and divorced in 1992, before he made his fortune. In Scotland any such claim would be thrown out. That's because Scottish law dictates that, apart from in the most exceptional circumstances, any claim for assets must be settled at the time of divorce. In England and Wales, given this decision, it has now been established that there is seemingly no limit of time as to when a claim after divorce can be made.

The upside of the Scottish framework is that both parties gain more certainty and are able to carry on with the rest of their lives knowing that a line has been drawn under any claims their former partner might have. However, the situation in the rest of the UK can be more favourable to non-working spouses, most often women.

Whatever, the case is unlikely to lead to a slew of similar claims – the circumstances surrounding this case were unique and English law weighs up the merits of each case individually. This should not therefore be taken to be a broad principle that will be applied widely.

Gillian was speaking on BBC Radio's Newsdrive. For more information on Turcan Connell's family law team click here.

 

MHAIRI STUART

Now, at the Supreme Court, a woman whose husband became a millionaire years after they divorced has won the right to claim a pay-out. Kathleen Wyatt wants the courts to order a pay out from Dale Vince, although she's didn't lodge a claim until nearly 20 years after their divorce. A judge has ruled that her claim can be heard at the High Court. Miss Wyatt's lawyer, Barbara Reeves, spoke to reporters after the hearing.

BARBARA REEVES, Lawyer

Our client has had a very difficult time and we are very pleased that the High Court will now have an opportunity to consider her financial claims all the circumstances of her case and she looks forward to concluding the litigation as quickly as possible.

MHAIRI STUART

Well, let's speak to divorce lawyer, Gillian Crandles from Turcan Connell solicitors. Good afternoon.

GILLIAN CRANDLES, Turcan Connell

Good afternoon.

MHAIRI STUART

What do you make of this ruling, then?

GILLIAN CRANDLES

It's a ruling that is very interesting for us north of the border to consider because it simply would not happen here, and it just underlines again the stark differences between the position in England and Wales and the position up here.

MHAIRI STUART

It does seem pretty remarkable that somebody can claim damages so far on.

GILLIAN CRANDLES

Absolutely, in Scotland we would have the claim extinguished at the time of divorce and there simply wouldn't be the opportunity to go back at any point after the divorce, except in the most extreme of circumstances, and certainly not 20 years down the line when fame and fortune have changed circumstances.

MHAIRI STUART

Yes, I mean obviously English law is different but what are the kind of legal grounds, then, for her claim?

GILLIAN CRANDLES

Well, in England, as you say, it is very different to here, they allow claims after divorce in a way that we do not and, as I understand the facts of this case, the parties went through a divorce about 20 years ago but did not obtain an order at the time to say that there would be no further claims, and unless you have an order like that in England there is no limit on time in terms of when you can come back and try and make a further claim based on changed circumstances - that is just not the case here at all, we have a clean break system. Orders are pronounced on divorce and thereafter each party simply goes off and makes of their own life as they will.

MHAIRI STUART

Maybe they've got it right and we've got it wrong, though, I mean I know here it's a strict division of assets on divorce, but if somebody has contributed to someone else's future earning potential surely they should have some of that?

GILLIAN CRANDLES

I think there are positives and minuses for both systems - here we have a certainty and clarity, and I'm a firm believer in being able to draw a line under a situation and being able to move on without feeling an obligation to others in years to come, other than in relation to children, of course, but in England obviously there is a more fact-specific approach to each case and there probably is a more generous approach to, for example, non-working women.

MHAIRI STUART

Yes, we've seen a lot of, kind of, high profile divorces...you know, a lot of foreign cases sometimes also coming to England, do you think we're likely to see a flood of claims based on this now?

GILLIAN CRANDLES

No, to be honest, I don't, I think even in England it is a fact-specific circumstance of this particular case, most cases will have had orders setting out what is going to happen a the time of divorce and in most cases there won't be this huge change in the personal circumstances of one or both parties.

MHAIRI STUART

Okay, Gillian, thank you very much for speaking to us. That's Gillian Crandles there from Turcan Connell solicitors.

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