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Husband ordered to increase maintenance payments to ex wife despite divorcing 15 years ago

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A Judge has recently ruled that an ex-wife, who has been divorced from her husband for 15 years, can have the amount of spousal maintenance she receives each month from her ex-husband increased by £341 per month.  Sam Miles, Family Partner, here reviews the case and considers the ways in which this could have been avoided.

Financial settlement in divorce

Mr and Mrs Mills divorced in 2002 when a financial settlement was reached concluding that Mrs Mills was to have a lump sum of £230,000, which was the family’s liquid assets, and Mr Mills could keep his businesses. Mr Mills was also ordered to pay Mrs Mills monthly spousal maintenance of £1,100. Mrs Mills is a part time beautician while Mr Mills could reportedly draw yearly dividends from his businesses in sums up to £200,000.

Last year the couple returned to family court as Mrs Mills was asking for an increase in spousal maintenance.  Mr Mills was asking for maintenance to stop all together and there be a clean break between the couple.  These challenges were dismissed by the Judge on that occasion but both parties appealed.

Mrs Mills’ argument was that the maintenance payments did not meet her basic needs. She went on to explain that she has had health difficulties which has been a bar to her working capacity.  Mr Mills argued that she had made poor investment choices with the lump sum and he should not be the insurer against her poor financial decisions.  The Judge on appeal, Sir Ernest, stated that the previous Judge, Everall, was wrong to calculate that £1,100 was the limit for maintenance when she required £1,441 to cover her basic needs.  This had left her out of pocket and there was no justification for the shortfall.  Mrs Mills needed £1,441 to cover her basic outgoings and so Sir Ernest ordered this.

Spousal Maintenance Order

A Spousal Maintenance Order is just one of the orders that a court has the power to make in financial remedy proceedings following divorce. This is completely separate to any form of child maintenance and is for the purpose of assisting the spouse in meeting their basic needs once divorced.  This is most commonly seen in cases where one spouse has a much higher earning capacity than the other and the lower-earning or non-earning spouse needs financial assistance for a certain period of time following divorce or, as seen in Mr and Mrs Mills’ case, indefinitely. When a spousal maintenance order is in place it leaves the door open for either party to bring the matter back to court to have it varied or discharged.

“Had the parties reached a clean break settlement where no spousal maintenance was paid and perhaps the Wife given a lump sum to capitalise her maintenance claims, the husband would not have found himself in this position,” explains Sam.  “It is always worth speaking to your lawyer about whether it is possible or advisable to try to achieve a clean break settlement.”

If you are considering divorce and would like to discuss the options for protecting your financial assets, you can contact Sam or the family team on 02380 717431 or email familyenquiries@warnergoodman.co.uk.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.