The ex-wife of a green energy tycoon has been awarded a "modest" lump sum payment of £300,000 in final settlement of the couple''s divorce cash battle.
Kathleen Wyatt had earlier demanded 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.
How much she will actually receive of her award remains uncertain, because of outstanding legal bills which have yet to be fully quantified.
Approving the terms of the settlement, High Court family judge Mr Justice Cobb, sitting in London, said: "I am perfectly satisfied that it is reasonable, and that the wife is entitled to receive a modest capital award following the breakdown of this marriage.
"The lump sum payment agreed between the parties fairly represents, in my view, a realistic and balanced appraisal of the unusual circumstances of this case."
Neither Ms Wyatt, 55, of Monmouth, nor Mr Vince, 53, of Stroud, Gloucestershire, were in court for the announcement of the settlement.
Mr Vince is a former New Age traveller who became a millionaire businessman years after the couple parted.
There was a legal battle over whether her late claim against him could proceed, which Ms Wyatt finally won in the Supreme Court. Mr Vince described the decision as "mad".
Judges 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. Three appeal
judges blocked the claim in 2013.
But the Supreme Court justices said it should go ahead.
One justice, Lord Wilson, said Ms Wyatt''s 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 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.
Mr Vince said of the Supreme Court ruling against him: "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."
Another illustration of the old maxim that hard cases make bad law.
In most areas of human activity, there are laws which say that
actions have to be brought, if at all, within a given period of time -
and if not so brought, the right of action is lost.
Why should divorce be an exception ?
The fact is, that many couples DO divorce without a consent order
. Perhaps that it is because there were few assets to argue about. Maybe they had come to an agreement.
I have always regarded it as unclear what happens if a claim is lodged after the divorce. The consent of the Court may be needed, and, as I understand it, may be granted, if the claimant can establish an arguable case. Nevertheless, a claim should be lodged promptly, in view of the risk that consent might be refused.
And now this.
OK, I will acknowledge that the sum awarded was, for the husband, petty cash.
I will admit the wife was in genuine need.
But if you start on this road, you are in danger of ending up
with what I think our American cousins call '' deep pockets ''
namely award damages , regardless of fault, if the defendant can afford it and the claimant is on his/her uppers.
What I found most interesting was the lengthy discussions over publication of the final settlement and judgement.
I agree with Mike that there needs to be some kind of time limit attached to Financial claims after a couple have finalised the divorce but not obtained a consent order
. There needs to be a cut-off point after which it is too late for either party to initiate proceedings against the other in respect of financial claims relating to the marraige.
This case is a good and clear example of why divorcing couples should obtain a consent order
after the Decree Nisi.
Fortunately this case is quite unique and, as the matter was dealt with by consent, should not be binding on other courts.
It is quite a mystery how the Applicant managed to engage the services of Mishcon de Reya which is a prominent law firm. The minimum fees charged appear to be £375,000 for dealing with the initial application and for the
The Respondent pushed for disclosure of the Applicant''s legal fees but decided not to pursue the point. There is every possibility that the Applicant will end up with somewhere been ''nothing'' and ''something''.