Family Law - Divorce Rulings

Divorce proceedings are often messy and complicated as couples and their lawyers seek a ‘fair’ division of assets and wealth accumulated during the course of a marriage. The more straightforward cases end in a 50/50 split of assets and wealth, but different circumstances call for different rulings. A decision made recently by the Court of Appeal has made headlines because it ordered a consultant to surrender all of his accumulated wealth to his ex-wife. This is a completely unorthodox situation, but it was deemed to be the fairest option for the ex-wife and children involved.

Mr Essam Aly left his wife and moved from the UK to Bahrain. The court heard that he had not paid a single penny of child support to his ex-wife or two children since 2012. Since he had moved to live on foreign soil, he was living outside of the working area of the Child Support Agency. There was nothing that this organisation or his ex-wife, Enas Aly, could do to make him honour this payment. The judge therefore saw that the only option was to rule in favour of Enas Aly and her children. Mr Aly was forced to give up all £550,000 of his savings to protect the financial security of his ex-wife and two children.

This decision is extremely unusual. It is generally accepted that although provisions must be made for ex-partners and children following a divorce, the party in question will still need some capital to live their own life away from their family until their next paycheque. It is a crucial case because it sets a precedent for any similar cases which might arise in the future. It has changed the possibilities for family law. It proves that the Court of Appeal is prepared to break with tradition in order to protect the most disadvantaged parties following divorce.

This is not the only unusual family law case to surface in 2015. This year looks to make history in terms of family law precedent within the UK. The case of Wyatt v Vince has been through its opening stages and appears to be just as much of a landmark within family law. In 2011, Ms Wyatt made a claim for financial provision from her ex-husband, whom she had divorced nearly 20 years previously. The couple was married in 1981 and had stayed married for nearly a decade. They had one son together and also raised Ms Wyatt’s daughter from a previous marriage. They lived a very modest lifestyle when together, but a few years after the divorce, Ms Wyatt’s ex-husband, Mr Vince, made millions of pounds through his green energy business. Their son went to live with Mr Vince, so child support for him was not necessary, but nothing was given to help Ms Wyatt’s daughter, whom Mr Vince had helped raise as his own.

Ms Wyatt has asked for financial provision in the form of a lump sum totalling nearly £2 million. The courts have advised her that she is unlikely to be awarded such a sizeable amount of money, but they listened to her case and a date has been set in December of this year for her case to be heard in the Family Division of the High Court. If she is awarded any amount of money whatsoever, this case could dictate a precedent for how long after a marriage has broken up a person may legally ask for financial provision. Obviously, this case has many exceptional elements, but if the court rules in favour of Ms Wyatt, it could pave the way for cases involving lesser amounts of financial provision to be claimed well after the divorce has been finalized.