Divorce maintenance payments: the “meal ticket for life”
You marry, you divorce in 2002, your wife gets almost all the available capital totalling £230,000 and you keep your business; you pay her divorce maintenance payments (a monthly income payment).
15 years later she has failed in her investments and lost the money, and so seeks increased maintenance. These are the facts reported in The Times in the case just heard by the Court of Appeal between Mr and Mrs Mills.
You might think that this long after the divorce the maintenance should be reducing, or even stopping entirely. If this divorce had happened in Scotland, where divorce law is different, maintenance ceases after three years in any event. However, the Court of Appeal increased Mrs Mills’ maintenance payments on the basis that she is unable to meet her reasonable needs, and that Mr Mills can afford to increase the payments.
The husband argued that he should not have to be the insurer against the wife’s poor financial decisions, but the court’s decision reflects that the law provides that maintenance can be life-long, and can be increased if the court decides that is appropriate.
This case further emphasises the importance, where possible, of securing a settlement that excludes maintenance: a “clean break” order, or at least limiting maintenance to a fixed period of time.
Other recent cases have implied the court’s move towards ending life-long maintenance as a general rule, but this is a stark reminder that the wide discretion that a court exercises can result in apparently harsh outcomes for a spouse who has themselves done nothing to cause the other spouse’s new financial difficulties.
If you would like to speak to the family team about protecting yourself and your assets through prenuptial agreements, securing a clean break or limited maintenance settlement, or to get a better understanding of what may be considered a valid claim, speak to our specialist team of divorce solicitors today by calling 01752 203 500.