Kathleen Wyatt may soon receive a lottery win. Eking out an existence through menial jobs and welfare for decades, she now has a potential ticket out: her ex-husband. They were approaching destitution when they were married, but following the divorce her ex-husband Dale Vince has become a renewable energy multimillionaire. Britain’s Supreme Court has now reversed a Court of Appeal decision and allowed Wyatt to make a claim for a slice of Vince’s fortune. She wants a staggering £1.9 million.
The history behind this case, when you compare it to Wyatt’s current lust for Vince’s money, is nothing short of astounding. Two decades ago, when the marriage had already crumbled, it was established that Vince lacked any financial means for alimony or a settlement.
The couple had actually ceased co-habiting and separated years before the divorce. After leaving her, Vince travelled incessantly in a refitted ambulance and fire engine for close to a decade, literally living the existence of a hippie.
Vince created his now £57 million wind energy company in 1996, four years after the 1992 divorce and a decade after the separation. It then took some twenty years for the firm to reach its present prosperity, which makes it thirty years since the original parting.
Many legal analysts are playing down the impact of the Kathleen Wyatt decision. But the implications are clear: the law gives legitimacy to claims that women require financial rescuing years after separation and regardless of whether the man had assets during the marriage.
Imagine a couple, aged in their early thirties, who decide to divorce. The man is a recently graduated physician, working in a major hospital as a junior registrar. The wife earns less, as a paralegal, teacher, nurse, interior designer or minor administration official or clerk.
At the time of the divorce, no formal division of assets occurs. The couple may just be overjoyed to see the back of each other, or both feel there are no substantial joint assets to partition. On the happier and more reasonable side, the woman may concur that the man, as a result of his career choices relative to hers, deserves to keep the bulk of the marital treasure trove he earned.
This new development in the UK demonstrates, however, that a woman is either free to change her mind or can sit on her hands for decades. She may even strategically avoid making a claim in her youth or early middle-age to maximize a subsequent payout.
But it gets worse…
The ex-husband’s earning capacity, while well above average now, will only increase over time. After sufficient years honing his practical, as opposed to university, credentials, he may branch out into specialist medicine or join a surgery as an owner-partner.
Our hypothetical man could be 53, married to his second wife and have four children (some going through college), and along comes the first wife wanting a free ride. The successful doctor has a thriving practice, $1.5 million in the bank and other high liquidity assets, and another $4 million in property and other assets. He then loses what it takes the first wife to earn in fifteen years, plus lawyering costs.
Inasmuch as I sympathize with Mr. Vince’s predicament, clearly he will not be (financially) devastated by even a £1.9 million payout. Thankfully but not completely reassuringly, one of the Supreme Court judges described that sum as a ludicrous amount. The real risk is for those in the middle and upper-middle classes, for whom a mere $100,000 payout would represent a proportionally calamitous outcome. The legal fight to ward off such a payout might double the total financial losses of an historical ex-husband.
What if Dale Vince had gone bankrupt?
Dale Vince could have founded his company, built it up to £100 million in two years and then saw his dreams go bust before his very eyes. He might have ended up £15 million in debt. Could Vince have claimed financial support from his ex-wife at that point, let alone two decades later? Of course not.
It would have been a similar story for billionaire Donald Trump. His first wife Ivana took him to the cleaners in the early 1990s but could Donald have claimed from her when he was in business bankruptcy and close to personal bankruptcy around the same time? Nope, nada, not in a billion years.
The asymmetry of court systems, both in their basic discrimination against men and the selectivity with which they develop legal doctrine (interpretation does change law, especially in the Commonwealth nations), would never allow such a pro-male scenario to take place.
Women still insist on a free feminist lunch
The modern court system is replete with morally frivolous claims by underachieving ex-wives wanting an “income.” It is bad enough that socialite or simply less hardworking women immediately put their foot on a chunk or the majority of a man’s wealth at the time of a divorce. The supreme indulgence (pun intended) bestowed on Kathleen Wyatt this week only shifts the divorce court parameters from delusional to intensely hallucinogenic.
Men have been third-rate inhabitants of family courtrooms for more than an era. “Fathers” such as Carnell Alexander, whom I discussed late last month, are penalized for not meeting legal deadlines and forced to pay for another man’s baby after the mother and court official have blatantly lied or essentially disappeared. But deadbeat ex-wives are now being given the opportunity to legally scam an ex-partner out of newly acquired riches years after the couple parted ways.
We’ll know from online British newspapers if Kathleen Wyatt is ultimately successful in both her £1.9 million bid or in getting any money at all. Whatever the case, she deserves nothing but our collective contempt.