The difference between obtaining a divorce and a settlement resolving family finances

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Confusion often surrounds the difference between obtaining a divorce and a settlement resolving the family finances following the breakdown of a marriage. The pronouncement of Decree Absolute in divorce proceedings means simply that you are no longer married and are therefore free to remarry. In contrast, until the financial claims of each spouse against the other have been formally dismissed by way of a court order, these claims potentially remain alive.

Dale Vince, the eco-millionaire, recently learned this salutary lesson when his ex-wife, from whom he separated in 1984 after only three years of marriage, brought a claim against him for financial provision some 19 years after their divorce. During their marriage, they lived as New Age travellers surviving on state benefits. Indeed, Mr Vince was described by Mr Justice Thorpe in the Court of Appeal as ‘the most improbable candidate for affluence’.

He went on to create the successful green energy company Ecotricity, which was recently valued at £90m, and is now a multi-millionaire. Conversely, his ex-wife Kathleen Wyatt remains penniless. She brought an application against him for financial relief in 2011 founded on their marriage…

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