You may have read a case recently in the newspapers which ended up in the Supreme Court called Mills and Mills 2018 UKSC 38 which dealt with whether or not a wife should be entitled to an increase in maintenance to pay for rental payments sixteen years after the parties divorced.
Following the parties’ divorce in 2002 the wife received a capital payment to purchase a property and was awarded periodical payments of £1,199 per calendar month. In 2014 Mr Mills applied to discharge the periodical payments order to reduce them on the basis that the wife had lost the capital that she had been awarded in 2002 by financial mismanagement and was in a position to work more in order to increase her earnings.
The wife then sought to cross-apply to seek an increase in her periodical payments to meet her basic needs as now she was in rented accommodation and required more income to meet those rental payments.
Initially, the Court of Appeal took the wife’s side and increased the monthly maintenance that the husband had to pay, however the Supreme Court has now revisited the Court of Appeal’s decision and reduced the monthly payments to the original figure.
Thus, the court has made it clear that someone cannot apply for an increase in maintenance because of their own financial mismanagement.
However, this case has not dealt with the wider and perhaps more important issue as to whether or not there should continue to be maintenance orders for life. Effectively, in this case, Mr Mills continues to be financially responsible for his wife who he divorced in 2002.
The courts have still not provided clarity in this area unlike other jurisdictions, specifically Scotland, where maintenance periods are for up to three years following a divorce and not beyond.
In essence, therefore, this case has ended up with Mr Mills continuing to have to pay monthly maintenance to his wife with no end in sight. I imagine the parties will be negotiating now with regard to whether or not maintenance could be capitalised. This is when a spouse takes a lump sum instead of regular maintenance. This, of course, could then provide Mr Mills with a clean break, however Mrs Mills presumably will want sufficient funds to purchase a property. In the circumstances, this may simply be unaffordable for Mr Mills.
It therefore means that maintenance continues to be an extremely complex issue when parties separate and it is essential to get the right advice as soon as possible.
If you have any queries with regard to maintenance or any other family matters, please do give family lawyer Gemma Gillespie a call on 01892 515022 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org