Supreme Court judgment of Wyatt v Vince [2015] UKSC 14

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The Supreme Court has delivered its unanimous judgment in the appeal case of Wyatt v Vince [2015] UKSC 14


This case has caused widespread media and legal interest for financial remedy proceedings due to the delay in bringing an application for financial relief following the divorce of the parties – some 18 years earlier.


The facts of this case are somewhat unusual. The appellant, Ms Wyatt, and the respondent, Mr Vince, were married in 1981.  They had a son, and Ms Wyatt had a daughter from a previous relationship, treated as a child of the family. They divorced in 1992. Mr Vince pursued a new-age travelling lifestyle and Ms Wyatt brought up the children. Mr Vince did not financially contribute to the family.  It is unknown what, if any, order was made at that time regarding financial provision, as the court file was mislaid, but the court had no reason to believe that Ms Wyatt’s claims were dismissed.


Mr Vince then became a multi-millionaire. In 2001, the couple’s son went to live with Mr Vince. Ms Wyatt’s financial circumstances continued to be, and remain, very modest. In 2011, she made an application in the divorce proceedings for financial provision in the form of a lump sum and an application for interim payments to fund her legal costs.  Mr Vince cross-applied for Ms Wyatt’s substantive application to be struck out pursuant to Rule 4.4 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010.


The court ruled that the wife’s claim was not an abuse of process and should not be struck out. The Supreme Court directs that the wife’s application proceed in the Family Division of the High Court.  The court examined the jurisdiction under Rule 4.4 of the family rules to strike out an ex-spouse’s application for a financial order. The court clarified that there was no equivalent power of summary judgment in the family rules as seen in the civil rules – this omission was deliberate. The wife’s application was deemed legally recognisable and is not an abuse of process. Her appeal against the strike-out therefore succeeded.