A recent court case has resulted in a ex-husband increasing maintenance payments for his ex-wife some 15 years after they were divorced, from £1,100 to £1,441 per month, indefinitely.
This outcome reinforces the uncertainty of the law regarding maintenance payments. Before this case, there appeared to be a trend towards financial independence being encouraged as soon as possible. The trend saw maintenance payments being limited to only a few years, rather than the wealthier party supporting the poorer party for life. This is a reminder that decisions on such cases will be judged independently on their own facts, with no set guidelines for divorcing couples.
Graham Mills, a surveyor and Maria Mills, a former estate agent married in 1988, separated in 2001 and got divorced in 2002. At the time of the divorce, it was agreed that Mrs Mills would receive all of the couple’s liquid capital, which was approximately £230,000. This, along with a monthly maintenance payment of £1,100 was in order for her to buy a house to live in with their son. Mr Mills retained his surveying business.
The Court of Appeal has now ordered that the maintenance payment be increased to £1,441 as Mrs Mills is unable to meet her basic needs.
It has been reported that Mrs Mills unwisely invested the sum of money she received at the time of the divorce in the properties she bought. In a bid to move up the property ladder, she first purchased a property in Weybridge, then upgraded to a flat in Wimbledon and then one in Battersea. This left her with mortgages she could not afford to pay and after selling the flat in Battersea, Mrs Mills was left with no capital. She has now returned to Weybridge and is renting a property.
In the Courts
The claim for an increased maintenance payment was at first rejected in the Family Court. However, the Court of Appeal noted that despite her poor financial decisions, Mrs Mills had not been wasteful or reckless with her money following the divorce, and therefore granted the increase. It was said that after divorcing, she was left to care for their young child and has since suffered health problems, restricting her ability to work.
Mr Mills, who is now remarried, has argued that he should be able to move on with his life instead of having to pick up the tab for his ex-wife’s poor financial decisions.
His barrister agreed, adding that the decision went against the “tide towards seeking independence” as Mrs Mills’ dependency on her ex-husband should have ended by now. He also suggested that there should be a change to the law, limiting ex-spouses to a maximum of five years of maintenance payments.
The Court of Appeal had no doubt that Mr Mills could afford to pay this increased payment as although no value was put on his business interests, the court was told that he had drawn dividends of up to £200,000 per year previously.
Posted on February 10, 2017