The Supreme Court has confirmed that it had refused permission to appeal in Waggott v Waggott because the wife’s challenge to the appeal court’s decision to end periodical payments from her ex-husband did not raise an arguable point of law. The decision means those proceeding through divorce will have to wait for further clarification on the issue of spousal maintenance.
Mr and Mrs Waggott were married in 2000 and had a child in 2004, before then separating in 2012. By 2001, Mrs Waggott had had ceased working as an accountant, whilst Mr Waggott continued in a successful career, earning £3m annually by 2014. The parties agreed to divide their capital assets equally, but disagreed about Mrs Waggott’s entitlement to future income.
At first instance, Mrs Waggott received £8.4 million of capital resources, with Mr Waggott receiving £7.8 million. Mrs Waggott also received an additional sum of just under £1.4 million comprising deferred remuneration received by her husband after the parties had separated. Her award totalled £9.76 million.
Subsequent applications and appeals were pursued by the parties. Judges at the wife’s appeal earlier this year allowed the husband’s cross-appeal, ruling that Mrs Waggott’s entitlement to periodical payments would now cease on 1 March, 2021, having previously been awarded on a “joint lives” basis. The case has previously made some noise in the media as commentators debated whether the days were numbered for the ‘meal ticket for life’.
The Supreme Court said one issue at stake was whether the earning capacity of a spouse should be treated as a matrimonial asset which the other spouse should share in the future. The other issue was whether it was fair to expect a homemaker spouse to use their capital award to meet their income needs when the other spouse could rely on their earned income and therefore leave their capital intact.
The Supreme Court’s ruling may be interpreted by the main breadwinner in a marriage to try and achieve a clean break at the point of financial settlement, but further clarity is required on maintenance and the potential for reform more generally.
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