'Meal ticket' divorces on the wane

We tend to report less on divorce matters in this newsletter since the public funding for divorce cases was removed. However, a recent decision is worthy of comment because it may mark a change in the attitude of the courts to making financial and maintenance orders following divorce.

The facts of the case are not typical in that the couple in question were wealthy. The 49-year-old wife was awarded a settlement of £9.76m and £175,000 per year for life from her ex-husband flowing their divorce in 2012.

The wife retuned to court some years after the divorce to request an increase in the annual maintenance payments and this proved to be her downfall.  Upon receipt of this application, the ex-husband challenged the original award.

The Court of Appeal (perhaps not unreasonably) calculated that the ex-wife could make up the shortfall that she was claiming by investing part of her original lump sum and as such, ordered that the annual maintenance payments should stop from March 2021.

The Judge said that: ‘Any extension of the sharing principle to post separation earnings would fundamentally undermine the court’s ability to effect a clean break.’

The ex-wife also has a large legal bill to pay following the judgment.

So, the moral of the story might be: ‘Think carefully before going back to court’ or ‘Be careful what you wish for’.

Anyone wishing to return to court to request that an order be reviewed is taking the risk that the result will not go in their favour. Commentators are also suggesting that his judgment represents a more general ‘sea change’ in the attitude of the courts to long term, post-divorce maintenance payments.

If you are involved in a divorce, it might pay to obtain specialist legal advice as to the financial aspect, expectations and any risks associated with your claim.

To discuss this or any other family related matter, contact us.

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