Is maintenance a meal ticket for life?

The press sometimes refer to spousal maintenance as “a meal ticket for life”. The Supreme Court has, however, ruled that a divorced husband should not have to increase payments to his ex-wife if she mismanages her finances after their split.

This litigation involved Mr and Mrs Mills who divorced in 2002 after a fifteen year marriage. Mrs Mills was awarded £230,000 in settlement and it was agreed that Mr Mills would make annual payments to her of £13,200. Unfortunately, Mrs Mills did not manage her finances well and by April 2015 she was left with debts of around £42,000. She claimed that there was a shortfall of £4,092 per year between her needs and the existing level of the periodical payments.

The Judge, in the first instance, declined to vary an Order of periodical payments so as to require Mr Mills to pay all of the rental costs incurred by Mrs Mills. She appealed to the Court of Appeal who agreed that the periodical payments should be increased. Mr Mills then appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled in favour of Mr Mills finding that she should not be entitled to any additional money from her ex-husband. The maintenance payments of £1,100 a month would, however, continue.

It would appear from recent decisions that the court would prefer to see a ‘clean break’ settlement where possible. This would prevent long and drawn out litigation or applications such as the one brought by Mrs Mills.

If you need any advice on divorce or on the division of matrimonial assets please do not hesitate to contact Enda Lavery solicitor on 02890329801.