Spousal Maintenance On Divorce – It Isn’t What It Used To Be!
Predicting the precise outcome of a financial remedy case on divorce is impossible. Every case is different. The presiding legislation has not been updated despite requests for legislative guidance further to the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1973, and we, as practitioners must, therefore, interpret how the case might settle for our clients based on case law. From this, we are able to give our clients an indication as to the range of possible orders the court might make in their case.
The case of Waggott-v-Waggott has seen a ruling by the Court of Appeal that will shape the advice given by divorce lawyers to their clients in respect of spousal maintenance, with guidance given as to the treatment of earning capacity and the principles of sharing and compensation.
This is a high net worth case and a marriage of 12 years, although the parties had been living together since 1991. They had one child whereupon the wife left her role as an accountant and did not work again.
This case tells us that the statutory steer to a clean break imposed by the Matrimonial Causes act 1973 should prevail, causing the wife to lose her argument that the husband’s earning capacity should be classed as a matrimonial asset to which the ‘sharing’ principle applies, and her argument that she should not be required to use the capital awarded to her in the settlement to meet her income needs. The Court said to extend the sharing principle in the ways suggested by the wife would undermine the court’s ability to effect a clean break.
The case is leading lawyers to understand that spousal maintenance awards are not as generous as has previously been the case. The end result for the wife was that her claim to increase the maintenance awarded to her was denied and, indeed, the original award was challenged when the Court of Appeal imposed a term order of 3 years with a Section 28(1A) Bar having the effect of preventing the wife from making an application to extend the term.
For advice about resolving finances on divorce, call 01630 652405 and make an appointment with our divorce solicitor, David Lago.