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.


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