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How long should Spousal Maintenance
be paid for?

The Court of Appeal have surprised family law practitioners with their decision in Mills v Mills 2017 by seeming to go against the grain of recent cases relating to spousal maintenance.

Mr and Mrs Mills divorced in 2002, following a 13 year marriage. In their financial settlement Mr Mills agreed to pay Mrs Mills a lump sum of £230,000, spousal maintenance of £1,100 per month and child maintenance of £300 per month for the benefit of their son. The spousal maintenance was on a joint lives basis, which means that Mr Mills was to keep paying until Mrs Mills remarried, one of them died or the Court made a further order.

In 2014 Mr Mills applied to vary the part of the order relating to spousal maintenance. He wanted to reduce the level of payments but also to obtain a fixed end date for the payments. He argued that Mrs Mills had mis-managed her finances and that she could work more and increase her income. Mrs Mills cross-applied for an increase in her maintenance claiming her needs were not being met by the payments at the current level.

The first instance judge dismissed both applications and left the original maintenance order as it was. Both parties applied for permission to appeal. Mr Mills was refused that permission but Mrs Mill’s application was heard by the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and ordered that the spousal maintenance to be paid by Mr Mills should rise to £1,331 per month to meet Mrs Mills’ basic needs.

This decision has come as something of a surprise because in recent years the trend has been for the Courts to move away from joint lives orders, the so-called ‘meal ticket for life’ and towards limited term orders which encourage parties to gain financial independence. This only serves to remind us of the broad jurisdiction which the Courts have in these matters.

If you have any issues relating to spousal maintenance which you would like to discuss please do not hesitate to contact us for an initial fixed fee meeting.

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