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Divorce is no longer a meal ticket for life – spousal maintenance implications

9 Aug 2018

Author: Matthew Delaney

Spousal maintenance is a difficult area of law.  We are often asked about implementing a fixed term order and a clean break in respect of spousal maintenance.  In this latest blog we review a successful case one of our Solicitors was involved in and what implications this has for the future of divorce, financial remedy and spousal maintenance.

THE CASE

Hepburn Delaney’s Laura Tidbury, Solicitor in the Matrimonial team, recently acted for a client whose wife had sought substantial spousal maintenance with no clean break.  The maintenance claim, which was requested to last 5 years, included all the capital from the proceeds of the sale of the family home and extra capital to provide her with an income for 8 years.

The parties disputed the extent to which the wife should receive spousal maintenance.  Laura argued that both parties had equal housing needs as both parties had agreed shared responsibility for the upbringing of their children and our client would require a significant mortgage to purchase a home which would reduce his available income to meet the claim for spousal maintenance.

The matter ended up in Court as resolution could not be found.  The Judge found an element of equality in the parties housing needs and that the wife could rehouse for much less than what she wanted.

In terms of meeting the wife’s income, the Judge considered spousal maintenance of an amount significantly less than claimed for with a non-extendable term for a period of 4 years was appropriate.  The division of the assets was 55% in favour of the wife.  This case is an example of how awards are sometimes less generous to wives particularly when it comes to dealing with maintenance claims.

WAGGOTT v WAGGOTT

Similarly, there was a recent important case at the Court of Appeal of Waggott v Waggott [2018] EWCA Civ 727 which rejected a wife’s appeal to the Court of Appeal and imposed a term maintenance order for only 3.5 years.

The Court dealt with the following principle issues: –

  • Is an earning capacity capable of being a matrimonial asset to which the sharing principle applies and can a wife have a continuing entitlement to share it?
  • To what extent is it fair for a wife to be required to use her sharing award to meet her income needs when the husband will meet his needs from earned income?

Briefly in this case the parties had lived together since 1991. They married in 2000 and separated in 2012, with one child born in 2004.

They agreed to an equal division of the capital assets including pensions but disputed the extent to which the wife should receive spousal maintenance. The wife sought a share of the husband’s post-separation bonuses and continuing spousal maintenance.

The trial Judge heard the case and decided that the sharing principle did not apply to his post separation earnings.

Both parties appealed, and the Court of Appeal Judge concluded that the wife did not have a continuing entitlement to the husband’s earning capacity as it goes against the statutory steer of a clean break.

The Judge also rejected the argument that the wife’s capital, apart from her housing need, should be preserved and should not be used in any way to meet her income needs as this would conflict with the clean break principle.

The Court allowed the husband’s appeal and imposed a term order with a section 28(1A) bar.

Both these cases illustrate a change in attitude of the English Courts who have been viewed as generous to wives on divorce.  It is a further ending of the ‘meal ticket for life’ attitude in divorce cases and over the past few years we have certainly seen less generous awards to wives made by the Courts.  We may also expect to see more clean break orders given immediately.  We appreciate this can apply to Wives seeking clean break orders from Husbands as well.

If would like to speak to Laura Tidbury about divorce and financial matters, please contact us on 01442 218090 or info@hepburndelaney.co.uk