Wyatt v Vince—hard cases make bad law?

Wyatt v Vince—hard cases make bad law?

Family lawyers always take a great deal of interest in the comparatively small number of family cases that reach the Supreme Court. The judgment in Wyatt v Vince [2015] UKSC 14 was handed down today with the surprise result of success for the wife. But if you remember nothing else from this judgment, remember this: ‘The circumstances of the case are highly unusual’ (per Lord Wilson, at para 2).

The legal scholar Glanville Williams has said: 'It used to be said that "hard cases make bad law" - a proposition that our less pedantic age regards as doubtful. What is certain is that cases in which the moral indignation of the judge is aroused frequently make bad law.' One wonders whether sympathy for the wife's straitened circumstances in Wyatt v Vince may have influenced this unanimous decision of the Supreme Court. If this had been a 'middle-income' case, would the door have been re-opened for the wife? (Although those cases of course don't make it to the Supreme Court, so we will probably never know.)

The wife’s appeal raised the following questions:

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About the author:

Geraldine is Head of LexisPSL Family. She was admitted as a solicitor in 1992 and was in practice for 15 years, most recently as a partner and head of the family team at Hart Brown, a large Surrey firm.

Geraldine writes for Butterworths Family Law Service and is a past editor of the Resolution Review. She has been published in the New Law Journal, the Law Society Gazette and the District Judges’ Bulletin as well as in the national press including the Times and the Telegraph.

When in practice she was a member of the Law Society Family and Children Panels, and an accredited Resolution Specialist with a focus on advanced financial provision and pensions. A past Resolution regional secretary and press officer, Geraldine also contributed chapters to the Resolution publications, International Aspects of Family Law (3rd Edition 2009) and The Modern Family (2012).