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Wife spends all of divorce settlement and comes back for more...

View profile for Jess Birch
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Mr and Mrs Mills divorced in 2002 after 13 years of marriage. At that time, Mrs Mills received a lump sum of £230,000 with £1,100 monthly maintenance payments. Since then Mrs Mills lost the bulk of this settlement by making a number of poor financial investments in a series of upmarket London properties. 

It is now 15 years down the line and Mrs Mills has recently taken the case back to court asking for more maintenance because she could not manage financially. Mr Mills, who has remarried and had a further child with his new wife, told the court that he is desperate to move on with his life and for Mrs Mills to become financially independent. The case reached the Court of Appeal and the Judges ordered that that her payouts be increased to £1,441 because she cannot meet her basic needs.

Under the current law, spousal maintenance payments can leave the divorcing parties’ financial claims against each other open. I share the view of Mr Mills’ barrister that this area of law needs to be reformed to encourage independence after divorce and to enable the parties to move on with their lives. Why should Mr Mills have to pay for his ex-wife’s poor financial decisions 15 years after the divorce? In Scotland, for example, the limit on maintenance is 3 years.

In the meantime, divorcing parties should carefully consider the possibility of a clean break when reaching a financial agreement. The court are also obliged to consider whether a clean break is appropriate. In some cases it is worth providing the other party with capital, in lieu of ongoing maintenance payments, in order to achieve a clean break and therefore severing all financial claims against the other and avoiding a scenario like Mr and Mrs Mills.  This is not appropriate in every case.

At Birkett Long we have expertise in divorce and related financial matters. If you require advice please get in touch with one of our specialist advisors.