Supreme Court’s judgment on varying spousal maintenance.

The Supreme Court is expected to shortly deliver its judgment on the matter of Mills. The case relates to the proper approach to a party’s application to vary periodical payments (spousal maintenance) orders made under s.31(7) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, after the grant of a decree of divorce.

After the parties’ 2002 divorce, they settled the matrimonial finances with a consent order. The terms of the order provided the wife with a large capital lump sum and required the husband to make spousal maintenance payments to the wife of approximately £1,200 per month.

The payments continued for some 12 years, before Mr Mills then applied to court to either discharge the maintenance payments entirely, or at the very least reduce them. His case was that his ex-wife had lost the 2002 capital lump sum she had been awarded because of gross financial mismanagement and that she was now in a position to work more in order to increase her income. Mrs Mills cross-applied for an increase in the maintenance payments, stating the sums she was receiving failed to meet her basic financial needs.

At first instance, the judge found that the order should continue without any variation benefiting either party. Subsequent appeals against this judgment reached the Supreme Court, who granted permission to appeal on a single ground, i.e. whether, provision having already been made for the [wife]’s housing costs in the capital settlement, the Court of Appeal erred in taking these into account when raising her periodical payments.

The Supreme Court appeal hearing was heard on 6  June 2018 and the judgment is expected to be returned in the near future. Family law practitioners are expecting the judgment to act as a bellwether to lower courts and solicitors indicating the court’s expectations for parties to return to full time work after divorce and to reflect the court’s current appetite for orders offering a “meal ticket for life” to non-working parties.

When dealing with financial matters in a marriage breakdown, there are many complex factors which need to be carefully considered. If you are in the process of dissolving your marriage or about to embark on the process, it is vital that you obtain clear and accurate legal advice early on. Our specialist solicitors have the experience and knowledge to assist you. Serving Bedford and central London, our lawyers can help you with your family law and divorce matters. Contact us on 01234 889777 or 0207 177 9777 to discuss your matter with one of our specialist solicitors.


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