15 Years After Divorce – Can Your Spousal Maintenance Payments be Increased?
The recent Court of Appeal case of Mills v Mills has proved that this is a very real possibility.
A judge has ruled that despite nearly 15 years passing since their divorce was finalised, Mr Mill’s monthly periodical payments to his ex-wife should be increased. The judge reasoned that an increase was required in order to help Mrs Mills meet her basic needs.
When the couple originally divorced in 2002 it was ordered that Mr Mills was to pay £1,100 in monthly periodical payments as well as provide Mrs Mills with a lump sum of £230,000. Over the years, Mrs Mills spent the entirety of the lump sum on a series of failed investments. She then applied to increase the monthly payments on the basis that she was unable to be financially independent and that she did not have enough money to meet her day to day costs.
At the same time, Mr Mills argued that the monthly payments should be reduced – his position was that Mrs Mills was able to work extra days in order to make up any shortfall in funds and that there should be a finding of ‘financial mismanagement’ on the part of Mrs Mills.
When making the final decision the judge reasoned that Mr Mills could afford an increase in periodical payments, he was running a successful business and was better off financially. In contrast, the judge found that Mrs Mills would not be able to obtain any further funds independently and that it was clear that without an increase in payment Mrs Mills would not be able to meet her basic needs. Accordingly, he ordered that the payments be increased to £1,441 a month.
This is a controversial decision, and shows that despite a lengthy separation period in which both parties’ circumstances had changed, it is still possible for maintenance payments to be increased.
On separation, it is general practice for a court order to be put in place which stipulates that neither party can apply to vary the order once it is in force. This case emphasises the importance of signing and formalising such an order. Without this, the paying party could find themselves with increasing liability over the years.
For more information and to find out how we can help you, please contact a member of our Family Team on 01279 755777.