Stuart McNeil, Head of Litigation on Mills-v- Mills
The Supreme Court has formally issued its judgement in a case where an ex-wife had applied to increase her maintenance payments of £13,200.00pa. As a result of losing money awarded to her in the divorce settlement made over ten years earlier, she had got herself into debt. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Judge who first heard the case was correct when refusing to increase the maintenance on the basis that the couple had already divided their capital and the husband should not have to pay more because the wife had lost much of hers.
The case has attracted a lot of attention in the press suggesting that this is the end of the ‘meal ticket for life’. This case doesn’t actually make any definitive principles about long term maintenance payments as the decision turned very much on its own facts, but nevertheless it highlights the increasing trend for courts to try to ensure that couples are able, and are expected, to stand on their own feet as soon as possible after separation, which is why achieving a clean break by the payment of extra capital instead of maintenance, is often the best way forward, whenever possible.