London: A 55-year-old woman won a landmark Supreme Court bid in London on Wednesday to claim a cash settlement from her former husband who became a millionaire more than a decade after they got divorced.
Kathleen Wyatt had lodged the claim against Dale Vince, 53, in 2011, nearly 20 years after their divorce. Vince had previously appealed successfully against Wyatt's claim on the basis it was too late.
But five Supreme Court judges unanimously ruled in her favour when they gave their verdict on Wednesday. Delivering the ruling, Lord Wilson said the court must have regard "to the contribution of each party to the welfare of the family, including by looking after the home or caring for the family".
The court was told that the couple met when they were students, married in 1981, and lived a New Age traveller lifestyle.
The pair had a son, but they separated in the mid-1980s and got divorced in 1992. Vince began a business career in mid-1990s and went on to become a wind energy tycoon.
Lord Wilson said Wyatt had raised her son through "16 years of real hardship". Her claim was "legally recognisable" and not an "abuse of process" but ruled out a payout of 1.9 million pounds she had hoped to secure.
Lord Wilson said: "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, perhaps of a size which would enable her to purchase a somewhat more comfortable, mortgage-free home." Vince branded the court's decision "mad".
"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," he said.