Supreme Court Overturns Court Of Appeal Decision
The UK Supreme Court has ruled that a businessman’s monthly payments to his ex-wife should continue only at the rate originally set in the original divorce settlement, overturning the Court of Appeal’s decision.
The Supreme Court had allowed Mr Mills a single narrow ground on which to appeal the Court of Appeal’s judgment. He was allowed to argue the point of principle that he should not have to fund monthly rental payments for his former wife when she had already had a large slice of the liquid capital generated during the marriage and from which her housing need should have been met.
Mr Mills argued she was effectively seeking a second bite of the cherry and that he should not be the insurer against her financial misfortune. Mr Mills had originally wanted the maintenance order to come to an end entirely.
Expert Opinion“Today the Supreme Court has decided to overturn the Court of Appeal’s decision that Mr Mills should have to fund rental payments for his former wife.
A husband should not be responsible for meeting the needs of his wife by way of ongoing maintenance where those needs were not connected to the relationship, but were in fact the result of the wife’s financial mismanagement. This judgment provides welcome clarity that a husband will not be responsible for a wife’s needs relating to provision of housing where she has mismanaged her capital settlement which was intended to meet those needs.
The judge was entitled to say the husband should not in all fairness have to meet the wife’s increased needs. The judge had a discretion to order an increase or not, but he would have had to give very clear reasons in the circumstances of this case why the husband should pay more. The impact of the original capital settlement had to be taken into account.
Campaigners against what they perceive to be the ‘meal ticket for life’ of indefinite maintenance orders will claim this as a victory. While this is a very narrow point - the Supreme Court has been at pains to stress that this is not a commentary on the principles behind maintenance orders generally - it does fit with the general trend in this area. It is clear the English courts are increasingly looking to encourage spouses to have financial independence from one another.
An example is Kim Waggott whose £175,000-a-year maintenance order was restricted to a fixed term after she went back to court to increase her annual pay-out. It is understood that case is also going to the Supreme Court on the wife’s appeal and we hope that this will provide an opportunity for the Supreme Court to give more general guidance beyond the specific issue that was addressed in Mills." Ros Bever - Partner