Spousal maintenance

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Is it still a “meal ticket for life”?

In the recent case of Waggott v Waggott the Court of Appeal decided that the former wife (Kim Waggott) should work and not assume that there is a right to be supported financially for life by spousal maintenance. The spousal maintenance previously awarded was ruled to stop altogether in three years time. The court decided that the former husband suffered ‘undue hardship’ with the payments due to his wife initially being awarded an initial payment of £9.7million with annual payments of £175,000. Kim Waggott had requested the appeal as she was after an additional £23,000 a year increase in the maintenance. This would have increased the global maintenance figure to £198,000 a year.

Lord Justice Moylan did acknowledge that long-term maintenance could, in some circumstances, be a fair outcome in divorce but in this case the former wife would be able to adjust to the termination of maintenance without undue hardship. The lump sum of £9.7 million could also be invested to provide a future income stream.

So what is spousal maintenance?

Spousal maintenance is a financial payment that is paid by a husband or a wife to their former spouse following a divorce and is separate to child maintenance. If the recipient remarries or if either party dies the spousal maintenance ends, it can also be changed or dismissed by the courts if there is a change in circumstances. Spousal maintenance can be one of the most acrimonious and costly areas when sorting out the finances in a divorce.

Due to the ruling in this case we may see the court reinforcing clean break divorces where possible and encouraging the financial independence of both parties and the equal distribution of assets so that once a divorce is settled and financial relations between the two parties come to an end.

The case also shows that the Court rejects the argument that earning capacity built up during a marriage is a matrimonial assets, and therefore, the sharing principle should apply.

Please note each divorce case can turn on its own facts and the court will decide the outcome so it is always advisable to seek proper legal advice and representation.

At Hunt & Coombs Solicitors our Family & Divorce team are members of Resolution and work to settle divorces and finances collaboratively to avoid the need to go to court so that both parties can agree a solution amiably and without having to pay high court costs.

If you require further help or advice regarding a divorce or a family issue please contact our Family team on 01733 882800 or [email protected].

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