Tycoon blasts 'mad' divorce ruling
A former New Age traveller whose ex-husband became a millionaire businessman years after they parted has won a cash fight in the Supreme Court.
Kathleen Wyatt wants a £1.9 million payout from Dale Vince, although she did not lodge a maintenance claim until more than 25 years after they had separated and nearly 20 years after their divorce.
Five Supreme Court justices today ruled that her claim should proceed and be analysed.
Ms Wyatt, 55, said the decision was "important". Mr Vince, 53, said it was "mad".
Judges had earlier taken different views on Ms Wyatt's claim. A judge ruled that her claim should go ahead following a High Court hearing, but C ourt of Appeal judges overturned that decision, ruling that the claim should be blocked after Mr Vince complained it had been lodged too late.
Five Supreme Court justices ruled in favour of Ms Wyatt today after analysing the case at a hearing in London in December.
Ms Wyatt said: "It's an important judgment."
Mr Vince said: "I'm disappointed that the Supreme Court has decided not to bring this case to an end now, over 30 years since the relationship ended.
"We both moved on and started families of our own. For my part the passing of time is extremely prejudicial, it's been so long that there are no records, no court has kept anything, and it's hard to defend yourself in such circumstances - indeed the delay itself has enabled the claim, because there is no paperwork in existence."
He added: "I feel that we all have a right to move on and not be looking over our shoulders. This could signal open season for people who had brief relationships a quarter of a century ago ... it's mad in my opinion."
Justices were told that the couple met as students, married in 1981 when they were in their early 20s, and lived a New Age traveller lifestyle.
They separated in the mid-1980s and divorced in 1992.
In the mid-1990s Mr Vince began a business career and went on to become a green energy tycoon after launching a company called Ecotricity - and justices were told that the business group is worth at least £57 million.
Ms Wyatt lodged a claim for "financial remedy" in 2011.
Deputy High Court Judge Nicholas Francis gave her claim the green light in 2012 but three appeal judges blocked the claim in 2013.
Now Supreme Court justices say it should go ahead and be analysed by a judge in the Family Division of the High Court.
One justice, Lord Wilson, said her claim was "legally recognisable" and not an "abuse of process".
He said she had been unwise to pitch her claim at £1.9 million, adding that an award approaching that size was "out of the question".
But he said justices thought that there was a "real prospect" that she would get a "comparatively modest award" - perhaps enough to buy a mortgage-free house.
Lord Wilson said Ms Wyatt's claim had "obvious difficulties" - but nevertheless a chance of success.
He said Ms Wyatt had four adult children, one of whom was a son fathered by Mr Vince.
He said between the ages of two and 18 that son was brought up by Ms Wyatt and she "struggled".
Mr Vince provided "minimal support" and the "heavy burden" seemed to have fallen "almost entirely" on Ms Wyatt.
"Her contribution to this aspect of the welfare of the family seems to have been substantial and quite unmatched by Mr Vince," said Lord Wilson.
"Unwisely Ms Wyatt has pitched her claim at £1.9 million and it is obvious, even at this stage, that an award approaching that size is out of the question. Her claim may even be dismissed.
"But there is, in our opinion, a real prospect that she will secure a comparatively modest award."
Lord Wilson said Ms Wyatt was in poor health and lives in a "modest house" in Monmouth.
He said she sometimes has low-paid jobs, and at other times she "gets by" on state benefits.
Lord Wilson said Mr Vince, of Stroud, Gloucestershire, was a "remarkable man".
"In his 20s he was a New Age traveller with no money at all," said Lord Wilson.
"But one year at the Glastonbury festival he rigged up a contraption from which he provided a wind-powered telephone service.
"It was the start of a business which, as a result of his ingenuity and drive, has led to his manufacture and sale of green energy on a massive scale.
"His company, Ecotricity Group Ltd, is now worth at least £57 million."
Lord Wilson said Mr Vince lives, with his second wife, in a Georgian fort.