Wyatt v Vince raises important legal issues in divorce cases where traditionally the principal focus has been on ‘needs’, particularly those needs generated by the marriage.
Ms Wyatt sought to argue that her responsibilities flowing from the marriage, primarily the care of her children, coupled with the absence of financial support from her husband, required her to turn down higher education opportunities. Having thereby missed the opportunity to command a higher earning capacity, her needs today, she said, were greater than they would otherwise have been.
The Supreme Court was relatively lukewarm about this claim. The argument it considered more powerful – a ‘magnetic factor’ – was one founded on the contributions which Ms Wyatt had made, and which Mr Vince had apparently largely failed to make, to maintaining the home and family. These contributions could have happened at any time – when the marriage was working, when the couple had separated and even after they had divorced.
Has this opened doors for divorcing and (sometime long-ago) divorced couples to rake over the historical coals in order to identify past contributions and to seek recompense for them today? Quite possibly. But it may still yield little for Ms Wyatt because of her ‘inordinate’ delay in making her claim.
Richard Hogwood, partner, Stewarts Law, London EC4