In a legal challenge by her former husband, the Supreme Court has ruled that an ex-wife cannot force her divorced husband to increase the amount of maintenance payments simply because of her poor financial planning.
Graham and Maria Mills divorced in 2002, when Mrs Mills received a lump sum of £230k for the purchase of a home for herself and their son, together with lifetime monthly maintenance of £1,100.
Over the years, Mrs Mills made a series of poor investments and, finding herself in debt and in need of help with her housing costs, applied for the maintenance payments to be increased. She claimed that the maintenance payments did not meet her basic needs and, in February 2018, the Court of Appeal increased her award to £1,441 a month, even though their son was now aged 23.
Mr Mills turned to a ‘crowdfunding’ website to raise the funds to overturn the ruling, saying that it turned men into “human cash machines”.
The court ruled that the original maintenance agreement would stand and Mr Mills would make continue to make payments to his ex-wife for life, but found that Mr Mills should not be required to pay more in order to fund the housing costs of his ex-wife, as she had failed to properly manage her own finances.
Lawyers had hoped the appeal would bring to a formal end to the ‘Joint Lives Maintenance Order’ and the obligation of lifetime maintenance payments.
In April 2017, in Waggott v Waggott, the Court of Appeal overturned indefinite maintenance payments after Mrs Waggott sought an increase of £23,000 a year from her former husband. She was originally awarded a payout on divorce of £9.76 million plus £175k a year in maintenance. The court ruled in favour of Mr Waggott and the maintenance payments were limited to three further years. His ex-wife is expected to appeal against the decision.
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