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Landmark ‘meal ticket’ case sets the tone for lifelong maintenance claims during divorce

In a recent high profile divorce case, the High Court clearly restricted claims for future maintenance payments from post-separation earnings.

The case involved Mr and Mrs Waggott, a wealthy couple who were married 21 years before their divorce in 2014.

Both agreed that their capital resources (housing, cars, savings etc.) should be split equally, with Mrs Waggott awarded a £9.76m sum and £175,000 maintenance per year for the rest of her life.

Despite this, she felt entitled to more, making a claim that she came to regret.

After appeals from the couple, Mrs Waggott ended up with a reduced sum of £8.4m, receiving her £175,000 maintenance payments up until 2021 only.

She was also awarded an additional £1.4m for deferred income post separation, whilst her husband received £7.8m overall.

As this shows, getting expert legal advice before or during a divorce can have an invaluable effect on the outcome, particularly if an appeal is made.

On top of this, there are a number of other key lessons that anyone going through a divorce can learn from.

The appeal

  • Mrs Waggott’s barrister claimed that maintenance payments of £190,000 would be a fairer share of her husband’s income
  • She felt that Mr Waggott’s earning capacity was a matrimonial asset to be shared (as it had built up during their marriage) and claimed for 35% of his net bonuses
  • Mr Waggott also appealed, arguing his earning capacity is not an asset to divide up
  • His barrister favoured a clean break between the parties and suggested maintenance payments should only be for a fixed period, giving Mrs Waggott time to adjust
  • The barrister also suggested that Mrs Waggott should return to work

The outcome

  • Mrs Waggott’s appeal was rejected by the court whilst her husband’s appeal was accepted
  • Maintenance payments were ruled to end after just three years, due to concerns over the lack of ‘financial incentive’ for her to earn money
  • This maintenance period would allow for adjustment, allowing Mrs Waggott to avoid “undue hardship” when the payments end
  • Earning capacity was not shared as a matrimonial asset, as Mrs Waggott’s needs could be met by her own earned income or captial
  • To summarise, Mrs Waggott’s wish to gain a ‘meal ticket for life’ was not granted

Key lessons

  • An appeal can leave you in a much less favourable position than you were in beforehand
  • To claim on your spouse’s future earnings, you must be able to prove that you need it
  • Capital settlements will often be used to compensate those that have given up their career for marriage – like Mrs Waggott

For more information on this or for advice on your own divorce, please contact Mike Spencer on 0115 9 100 200 or click here to send an email. 

Posted on June 13, 2018

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