The Supreme Court, the highest Court in the country has recently ruled in the case of Mills V Mills that the wife, having exhausted her capital by entering into a series of unwise financial transactions, could not have increased periodical payments from her ex-husband to fund part or all of her rent.
The wife had been left with sufficient capital to re-house herself after her divorce and bought and sold various properties. She also received a lifetime order for her husband to pay her maintenance every month.
After she had lost all of her capital, she applied to the Central Family Court for an increase in periodical payments because she could not pay her rent. Her claim was rejected. The wife appealed and the Court of Appeal allowed her appeal, increasing the sum that her ex-husband had to pay her every month.
The husband subsequently appealed and the Supreme Court allowed his appeal, re-instating the original decision of the Judge in the Central Family Court.
The Supreme Court in making this decision observed that a Court would need very good reasons to increase maintenance payments to fund the payment of the other spouses’ rent in circumstances where the original financial settlement had provided the applying spouse with sufficient funds to meet his or her housing needs from capital.
In circumstances where one spouse is ordered to pay another periodical payments, whether for a fixed term or on a joint lives basis, either party has the right to ask the Court to vary the amount of payments during the lifetime of the Order whether by way of increase or decrease. In such cases the Court will always consider the parties’ financial positions at the time of application, but will also take into account the circumstance which gave rise to that application.
The Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Mills V Mills highlights that when an increase in periodical payments is sought as a result of the receiving parties unwise financial dealings, even where they were made honestly as opposed to being ‘profligate or wanton’, their former spouse will not be left to effectively ‘foot the bill’.
This case further highlights the need for specialist legal advice to be undertaken before considering any application to vary an existing Spousal Maintenance Order.
For more information on this latest ruling by the Supreme Court, or for advice relating to divorce proceedings and maintenance payments, please contact our Family Law department on 01708 229444 or email us using the form to the right.This article was written by Michael Sheville, Family Partner at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of July 2018.