There has recently been an appeal for spousal maintenance which has brought about some debate over the fairness of a spousal maintenance final order.
There have been many appeals for spousal maintenance over the years, but this most recent one has gained particular traction given that so many people now look to social media and other internet outlets for news and information.
The case of Graham and Maria Mills went to the Court of Appeal after Maria Mills wanted her maintenance payments increased and Graham Mills wanted a clean break. If you somehow haven’t heard the details of this case the basic information is this:
The couple divorced in 2002 after a 13 year marriage. At the time of their divorce they dealt with their finances and Maria Mills received a lump sum of £230k (the majority of the couple’s capital) and spousal maintenance of £1100 per month. It was ordered that this maintenance be paid for the rest of their joint lives. This means the maintenance must continue to be paid until the recipient remarries, either party dies or the Court make any further order in relation to the payments.
It needs to be said that the order of spousal maintenance for joint lives is not something that is made regularly and it is something the Court were thought to be attempting to move away from. Scotland will not implement lifetime maintenance at all and have an “adjustment” period of 3 years.
In the Court of Appeal it was heard that Maria Mills had “unwisely invested” the lump sum in properties and consequently was left without any capital and living in rented accommodation. She was unable to increase her income through employment due to ill health. Because Graham Mills had quite a substantial income the Court decided he was able to afford the increase in maintenance without difficulty.
This decision does not sit well with the general public and is regarded by many to be unfair. It is essentially indicating that a wealthier party can be held accountable for the bad decisions of an ex-spouse. It is particularly concerning when it has previously been stated by Lord Scarman that “An object of modern law is to encourage the parties to put the past behind them and to begin a new life which is not overshadowed by the relationship that has broken down”. This does not appear to be the intention of the Court of Appeal’s decision.
However, fairness in the eyes of the general public is not subject to logical and objective reasoning, which is what the Court’s use to define their decisions.
This case truly illustrates the importance of financial negotiations because otherwise, you are left with a decision made by someone entirely objective, using logic to decide what should happen with your money and assets.
If you and your spouse are considering a divorce it is vital that you seek legal advice to ensure the suitable negotiations are undertaken. To speak to an experienced divorce solicitor in Lancashire and Manchester please call Farleys Solicitors on 0845 287 0939 or send your enquiry online.