Apologies but I don’t have much time to write this article as I’ve got rather a lot to do, going back through a list of all my past boyfriends to see if I can find one who has managed to make a few million quid. So I can claim my fair share.
I would strongly suggest that you do likewise, since a new Supreme Court ruling today [WED] suggests that there is Free Money to be had by all and sundry simply from once having been romantically involved with someone who now has a bit of dosh in the bank.
For this, we have Kathleen Wyatt to thank.
Kathleen is now 55 but in her distant youth, she was once married to a multi-millionaire windfarm entrepreneur. Well, to be strictly accurate, she was once married to a penniless New Age traveller who went on to become a multi-millionaire windfarm entrepreneur many years later. But let’s not let mere facts and the correct chronology get in the way of a good story.
So, Kathleen got married to Dale Vince a lifetime ago in December 1981 when they were both living on benefits. They went on to have a child in 1983 but separated a year later. Eight years on, in 1992, they finally got round to getting divorced but, since they were both still living on state handouts, there weren’t any assets to divide and they both went their separate ways.
Kathleen went on to have a new relationship and more children with a new partner but has struggled financially all her life. Dale, on the other hand, after separating from Kathleen as a penniless 22-year-old, did rather better.
He remarried, had more children and, a few years later in 1996, he launched the world’s first green energy company, Ecotricity, which went on to be a phenomenal financial success and is currently valued at upwards of £90million.
So, all’s well that ends well, you might think. But you’d be wrong. Despite their marriage having only lasted three years, Kathleen decided that, 18 years after they had split up, it was time she laid claim to what is rightfully hers: a £1.9 million share of her ex-husband’s millions.
The fact that his business did not even exist until years after they were separated, or that she made absolutely zero contribution to that business, were clearly not deemed to be relevant issues for the Supreme Court. Neither was the fact that she waited the best part of two decades before turning up to make her demands.
It’s not entirely clear whether Dale Vince has ever made a financial contribution to the raising of his child by Kathleen, but that is by the by because this case is not about backdated child support; it is about whether an ex-wife (or an ex-husband) can have a legal claim on her ex’s income for many years after their break-up.
Now I have got every sympathy for ex-wives who are left penniless by ruthless men who take every penny, hide it away and fail to support their children. By all means, fight your corner.
I also think a wife has every right to expect a fair share of the assets in the event of divorce if a couple agree to work together – he at the office, she at home – to make a life for themselves, if that is the deal they’ve both agreed at the outset.
And if a woman financially supports her husband while he sets up his business and that business ultimately makes millions, then, yes, by all means she should be entitled to half of the proceeds.
But the idea that Kathleen Wyatt can lay claim to her former husband’s riches made only years after their brief marriage is possibly one of the stupidest rulings by any court in the land.
Of course, she hasn’t actually got her hands on his cash just yet. After years of court decisions, from the High Court to the Appeal Court and now the Supreme Court, she has still won only the right to have her case heard by a judge in the Family Division of the High Court, who will decide if she is indeed entitled to “financial remedy” as her lawyers claim.
However, Mr Vince called it a “mad” decision which “could signal open season for people who had brief relationships a quarter of a century ago”. And he’s right.
If there’s no time limit on such cases and an ex-spouse can make a claim on his or her ex’s money decades after they were together, why should the courts care whether the couple were ever even married at all? Why not claim on any ex-lover’s earnings at any time?
Which is why I’m spending the next few days hunting down every man I’ve ever dated to see which one offers the best chance of getting my “financial remedy”. Because, as everyone knows, all’s fair in love, war and break-ups…