Courts have often ‘compensated’ a party who has sacrificed their career for the benefit of their marriage; for example, a wife who sacrifices her career to take care of the children. Whilst this position is still widely recognised, the courts have become sterner on how far this principle can go. So what does this mean for spousal maintenance?
In the case of Wright v Wright
, the wife was refused permission to appeal a variation to a periodical payments order.
A financial order was made in 2008 providing periodical payments from the husband of £33,200 per annum and payments of £10,400 per annum in respect of each of their two children.
Four years later the husband applied to vary the order on the basis that his financial position had changed and that he had expected the wife to start contributing towards her own income after the order was made.
The wife had worked for a considerable time during the marriage prior to the birth of their children. She then left work when they were born in order to care for them. The wife had not worked since the order was made.
The court refused her appeal and the judge was critical of her failure to attempt to gain employment. The judge ordered that spousal maintenance be lowered and that it would cease at the time of the husband’s retirement.
Although the wife had made sacrifices and her earning capacity had diminished, the court felt that this would increase with time and eventually take the pressure of the husband’s income.
Whilst this case demonstrates an attitude that everyone should take responsibility for their own outgoings, every case is different and the law remains flexible to acknowledge this.