A decision by judges sitting in the Appeal Court in London has
attracted a considerable amount of controversy recently after a
ruling that a woman should receive an increased amount of
maintenance from her ex-husband, despite the fact that the couple
divorced 15 years ago.
The case concerned Graham and Maria Mills, who married in 1998
and divorced in 2002, reports the Telegraph. The couple had one son
together who is now an adult.
Under the terms of the financial settlement agreed at the time
of the divorce, Mrs Mills, who used to be an estate agent, received
a personal maintenance payment of £1,100 per month and the
majority of the couple's "liquid capital", which
amounted to around £230,000. Mr Mills, who was a surveyor,
kept ownership of his business.
After the divorce, Mrs Mills invested her money in a series of
unwise property purchases in an attempt to improve her situation.
With each move she extended her mortgage liabilities and failed to
recoup sufficient profit when the properties were sold. By the time
she sold her last property, a two-bedroom flat in Battersea, she
was in significant debt.
Both Parties Return to Court
Following the divorce, Mr Mills remarried and started a new
family. In 2016, he went to court to request that his maintenance
obligations come to an end so he could "move on with his
life". Mrs Mills also went to court asking for a higher level
of monthly maintenance payments. Neither was successful and both
took their cases to the Court of Appeal.
Mr Mills' lawyer argued that he should not have to pay for
his ex-wife's financial mistakes and that it was reasonable for
him to want to move on with his life and bring her financial
dependency to an end.
However, Mrs Mills' lawyer highlighted that her spending had
not been "profligate or wanton" and that her ability to
work had been affected by a number of health issues. He said that
she was no longer able to afford to meet her "basic
needs" and needed an increase in maintenance.
Ultimately the Court of Appeal judges ordered that Mrs
Mills' monthly maintenance payments be increased to
£1,441 until such time that a further court order is
The Scottish Position
It is important to highlight that this is an English decision
and that the legal situation in Scotland is very different. In
Scotland, financial provision on divorce is predominantly dealt
with by the Family Law (Scotland) Act 1985, the provisions of which
are geared towards achieving a "clean break" following
separation. Any ongoing spousal maintenance obligations will
normally be limited to a maximum period of three years from the
date of divorce to enable the financially dependent spouse time to
adapt to the change in circumstances. Awards of longer term
financial support are, however, possible where a spouse is likely
to suffer serious financial hardship as a result of the divorce.
Further to this, it is not possible in Scotland to seek financial
provision after the divorce has been finalised and therefore all
financial issues must be agreed prior to decree of divorce being
These fundamental differences between Scottish and English
family law mean that a situation similar to that described above
would have been handled very differently under Scottish law.
The material contained in this article is of the nature of
general comment only and does not give advice on any particular
matter. Recipients should not act on the basis of the information
in this e-update without taking appropriate professional advice
upon their own particular circumstances.
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