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The Court of Appeal has issued a judgment that will come as a shock to divorcing spouses who anticipate that their ex-spouse will be required to pay them maintenance for life.
The case was brought after the ex-husband applied to have his maintenance obligations to his former wife reduced. The couple had divorced after an 11-year marriage. The original decision of the court was that he should pay her £75,000 per annum (to include child maintenance and school fees), which included £33,000 in maintenance for her for life. The court also ruled that their matrimonial home should be sold and the proceeds divided between them, allowing her to have a property free of mortgage with stabling for her and her daughters’ horses.
However, when the husband, now 59, began to consider his retirement and the consequent reduction in his income, he applied to have the maintenance payments to his ex-wife reduced.
The argument went to the Court of Appeal, where Lord Justice Pitchford criticised the wife for making no effort to find work for herself and expecting that her ex-husband would maintain her for life, saying that she should ‘get on with it’ and get a job to support herself.
Although a decision has not yet been made regarding the revised amount of maintenance her ex-husband will have to pay, it is clear that it will be less.
As a decision by the Court of Appeal is binding on lower courts, the outcome could have considerable importance for many divorced and divorcing couples.
If you are concerned about your maintenance obligations, contact us for advice.