The Supreme Court dealt a blow yesterday to divorcees who ask for a ‘second bite of the cherry’ by applying to the court for a further payment from their ex spouse.
In the case of Mills v Mills, Mrs Mills applied to the court for an increase in the spousal maintenance she was receiving from her former husband, because she had spent all of her original settlement monies.
Mr Mills objected to Mrs Mills’ claim for him to pay an extra £4,090 a year, (some of which Mrs Mills said she needed to pay her rent ) because in the original court order he had paid £230,000 to enable her to purchase a home for herself mortgage free.
Mrs Mills had indeed purchased a home for herself (with the aid of a mortgage) for £345,000 in 2002. However, she had lost all of her capital as a result of poor investments and property deals. She had therefore been renting her home since 2009.
The Supreme Court overturned the Court of Appeal’s previous decision that supported the wife’s request to increase payments, and said that Mr Mills should not have to pay any increase on the monthly spousal maintenance that he was already paying of £1,100 per month.
Lord Wilson, who provided the judgement said “There is no doubt that Mrs Mills needed the extra [£4,000] and that Mr Mills could have afforded to pay it. But we have no doubt that the trial Judge was right [in refusing to order an increase]” He said “In fairness to Mrs Mills it is important to stress that the loss of her capital wasn’t as a result of wild living or extravagant speculation ….simply from her entry into a series of ill-advised transactions”.
It is clear from this decision that parties must take responsibility for their own actions, and if they make poor decisions, then they can’t expect their ex-spouses to rescue them. This may be interpreted as a signal that courts are prepared to look more closely at a ‘clean-break’ when making financial orders. The decision does however stop short of preventing ‘open ended’ spousal maintenance orders for spouses who need greater financial assistance post divorce.
Nicholas Clough and Sally Leaman of Price Slater Gawne are experienced Family and Divorce solicitors who can advise you on any financial concerns you may have in relation to the breakdown of your relationship. If you would like to contact Nicholas or Sally in complete confidence, please call 0161 6155554.