LONDON (AP) — Britain's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the passage of time is no barrier to a financial settlement in a divorce case, giving a British woman the right to pursue a claim against her ex-husband decades after they parted ways.
In a landmark ruling, the court decided that Kathleen Wyatt, 55, was entitled to seek compensation from ex-husband Dale Vince, 53. The couple married in 1981, raised two children together and lived a lifestyle of New Age nomads. When they divorced in 1992, they had no assets or income.
After the split, their lives diverged dramatically.
Wyatt struggled, raising a daughter from a previous relationship and a son she had with Vince, while her ex-husband went on to establish Ecotricity, a green energy company and windmill builder valued by the court at some 57 million pounds ($85 million.)
Though files going back years could not be located, the Supreme Court said there was no reason to believe Wyatt had previously sought financial provision and had her claims dismissed — effectively deciding she still deserved her day in court.
Another court will now decide what amount Wyatt will receive.
She has sought 1.9 million pounds ($2.9 million). Justice Nicholas Wilson said that was "out of the question" but that she might get enough to buy a mortgage-free house.
Wyatt described the decision as "important" but Vince called it "mad."
"I feel that we all have a right to move on and not be looking over our shoulders," he said. "This could signal open season for people who had brief relationships a quarter of a century ago,"
William Healing, a family law partner at Kingsley Napley LLP, said the case showed that couples should tie up loose ends upon separation with a formal court order.
"It is the childcare responsibilities she had which have kept her claim alive over two decades," Healing said in a statement. "That fact alone gives her a good chance of getting, say, (a) roof over head, from her ex-husband's millions."