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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  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:
The wife faced (and continues to face) the following obstacles:
Key aspects of the Supreme Court’s decision are:
So, an interesting read and a judgment that is worth consideration if dealing with a case concerned with delay or indeed an application for a costs allowance/legal services order. But the facts are extreme and on a day-to-day basis most practitioners are unlikely to deal with many cases involving such a short marriage and such significant wealth.
Geraldine Morris is a solicitor and Head of LexisPSL Family.
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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).
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