For richer for poorer?

The case of Mills v Mills has thrown open the debate once more, surrounding upkeep of non-earning partners in the event of a divorce. How easy is it to financially support a separated partner, but also guarding the interests of each party?

The case of Mills v Mills involved a husband and wife who divorced in 2002, following 15 years of marriage. Mr Mills agreed to pay Mrs Mills a sum of £230,000, which was intended to purchase a house, mortgage free, for Mrs Mills and their son. This also took into consideration Mrs Mills’ ill health and was designed to safeguard both her and their son and offer a more secure future home. In addition, Mr Mills agreed to pay Mrs Mills an annual rate of £13,200.

However, Mrs Mills purchased a more expensive home, at £345,000. She also subsequently purchased more properties, but, instead of investing the capital, spent any money accrued. She ended up selling the house she lived in to go into rental accommodation and by April 2015, Mrs Mills had debts of around £42,000.

The case put to the judge had two sides. One from the husband, who was appealing to have the annual upkeep reduced and from the wife, who requested it to be increased. The Judge noted that there was indeed a shortfall between the wife’s earnings and current needs, however, he also held that Mrs Mills actions had been wasteful of the resource she had been rightfully awarded. Therefore, the Judge ruled that no changes were made to the wife’s provision, and this was unanimously allowed by the Supreme Court.

From a tangible aspect, there could be hundreds of families who face a similar situation, even for smaller amounts. I certainly come across a number of clients who seek financial support from a partner following a divorce, particularly after a long marriage where one spouse is left at home to look after children.

The Mills v Mills case could lead to increased publicity, and other individuals may well come forward. However, the word from us is that the justice system is increasingly more geared towards each party working towards financial stability independently and that maintenance payments should not be viewed as a “meal ticket” for life.

Our family law teams can assist if you have any queries relating to divorce, as well as rights to maintenance payments, custody of children etc. Contact us for more information

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