A Meal Ticket For Life?

A Supreme Court decision, given last week, is being hailed in some quarters as the end to what  campaigners  see as a “meal ticket for life” for divorcing wives, but is that really the case?

Mr and Mrs Mills divorced in 2002 and an order was made which awarded Mrs Mills a lump sum to meet her housing needs and spousal maintenance payments of £1,100 per month until she remarried or one of the parties died. Mrs Mills bought and sold a number of different homes and ended up with significant debts. Eventually, she moved into rented accommodation.

In 2014 Mr Mills made an application to discharge or at least reduce the maintenance payments on the basis that Mrs Mills had badly managed the original capital award and that she was able to increase her income by working more. Mrs Mills applied to increase the monthly maintenance payments on the basis that the current payments were not sufficient to meet her basic  needs.

The Family Court left the maintenance payments as they were. The Court of Appeal allowed Mrs Mills’ appeal and increased them to cover an element of rent. The Supreme Court this week allowed the appeal of Mr Mills and ordered that the original maintenance order should remain in force but that there should be no increase to cover rental costs, given that provision had already been made for Mrs Mills’ accommodation in the 2002 order and she had mismanaged those funds.

Our Head of Family Law, Joanna Toloczko comments: “Many of my clients, both husbands and wives, are surprised to learn that there is such a thing as spousal maintenance, assuming that maintenance is only available for children. Indeed, there are many European jurisdictions where that is the case. There is also a big difference in the approach of Family Courts in different parts of the country as to whether an order for spousal maintenance should be made and, if so, what the correct level of maintenance is and when it should come to an end.

Although some people are hailing the Mills case as another nail in the coffin for payment of maintenance for life, it should be remembered that the Supreme Court upheld the original joint lives maintenance order and only declined to increase it to cover rental payments.”

For advice on maintenance payments for children and spouses and all other financial remedies, contact Joanna on jtoloczko@meaby.co.uk or 0207 703 5034.



Landmark Ruling in Civil Partnership case

On 27th June 2018 the Supreme Court handed down judgement in the case of Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan who had been involved in a three and a half year struggle regarding the right of opposite sex couples to enter into civil partnerships.

Civil partnerships were introduced in December 2005 for same sex couples only. Same sex couples were able to marry from March 2014. Steinfeld and Keidan did not wish to marry as they regarded the institution of marriage as patriarchal and sexist. Instead, they wished to enter into a civil partnership as they felt that this would reflect their values and lend legal recognition to the equal nature of their  committed and long term relationship. They sought judicial review of the government’s decision not to extend civil partnerships to opposite sex couples on the basis that it discriminated against them and breached their human rights. They lost in the High Court and the Court of Appeal but won their appeal in the Supreme Court.

The government equality office is now understood to be considering a thorough review of civil partnerships – however there are only two ways forward – either to abolish them all together – raising a question mark over the legal status of existing same sex civil partnerships or to extend them to opposite sex couples.

Since the couple started their legal battle they have had two children. Interestingly, instead of giving the children  solely their father’s surname or double-barrelling the two surnames (which they considered to be patriarchal) they have given them the fused family surname of Keidstein. I can’t help thinking that this is easier to do with some surnames than with others!

This case raises interesting questions over whether the institution of marriage is fit for purpose in  modern day society when there are very many different family models, rather than just the traditional nuclear family unit.

If you require a modern approach to family law issues it is recommended that you contact Head of Family Law, Joanna Toloczko at Meaby & Co for timely advice: jtoloczko@meaby.co.uk or call 0207 703 5034.


Appointing a Family Law Solicitor

The best way to choose a solicitor is always by personal recommendation, but you may not know anyone who has recently been through a divorce, or you may have several recommendations and cannot choose between them – where do you start?

These days you can obtain a lot of information about solicitors from their online presence – their firm’s websites, their Linkedin Profiles etc. You should look at the length and breadth of their experience, areas of specialisation, professional memberships, whether they are also trained mediators and/or collaborative lawyers and their general “style”.

Always check to see whether a solicitor is a member of Resolution – the leading organisation of family lawyers in England and Wales. If they are this indicates that they have considerable  experience in family law and that they abide by a Code of Practice which promotes a constructive and non-confrontational approach to resolving disputes, designed to maintain the dignity of the parties and to prioritise the needs of any children. Have a look at the Resolution website. It has a large public area which is a great source of up to date information regarding family law – www.resolution.org.uk.

Give your shortlist of solicitors a call. Most solicitors are happy to have an initial chat on the phone and you should be able to gauge whether you are likely to get on with the solicitor during the telephone call.

Beware the free 30 minute consultation. It is impossible for a solicitor to gather all of the relevant information from you and give you well-considered and comprehensive advice in such a short period of time and you will usually just be given some generic information and encouraged to make a further appointment. Cost is always a consideration but bear in mind that you usually get what you pay for in this life. Solicitors usually charge on a time basis. Ask if they offer any fixed fee work. Ask the solicitor’s hourly rate.

If you are considering appointing a family solicitor please contact our Head of Family, Joanna Toloczko at jtoloczko@meaby.co.uk for a no obligation chat on the telephone.