Mills and Mills – A Case on Spousal Maintenance Decided by The Supreme Court

Mills and Mills – A Case on Spousal Maintenance Decided by The Supreme Court

The UK Supreme Court has decided an important case in relation to spousal maintenance and this is the case of Mills and Mills. The Judgement has been given on the 18th of July 2018 the matter having been heard on the 6th of June 2018.

The facts are that the parties divorced in 2002 after a marriage of 15 years. The wife received £230,000 a settlement of capital claims. The husband agreed to pay periodical payments in the sum of £13,200.

It had been thought that the £230,000 would be used by the wife to buy a house for herself without a mortgage. However, she bought a more expensive property and then different properties. She did not reinvest all sale proceeds and spent the balance apparently and then in 2009 sold her final property. By 2015 she had no capital and debts of £42,000.

The Judge at first instance considered two applications under section 31 (1) of the Matrimonial Causes act 1973. The husband applied to discharge periodical payments but the wife applied to vary upwards.

The Judge was aware that there was a shortfall of £4,092 each year between her needs and the periodical payments received and her income.

However, he felt that she had not been wise in her financial management and her needs had been increased by her own choices. She had not been profligate though.

However, the fact she had taken these decisions meant that the husband should not be responsible for rent and the Judge decided not to increase the periodical payments. He did decide that the payments should remain in force and therefore dismissed the husband’s application to discharge the order.

The matter went to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal upheld her appeal and stated that the Judge had not given sufficient reasons as to why periodical payments should not be increased. They therefore increased the periodical payments to £17,292 per annum.

The husband appealed this ruling to the Supreme Court on a single ground. The single ground was that since the wife’s housing needs had been accommodated in the original settlement could the Court of Appeal interfere with the Judge’s decision to increase periodical payment to cover the cost of rent?

The Supreme Court allowed the appeal therefore following the Judges original order. They stated that the Judge had given a fair reasons as to why periodical payments should not increase. The reason was that the wife’s decision had increased her basic needs and it was therefore unfair for the husband to pay for such increased needs.

The Supreme Court states that the Court of Appeal should have considered the impact of the original capital payment on the wife’s need to pay rent. In other words there would be duplicated provision if the husband had to pay for the wifes rent.

A case by Nottingham and Derby Divorce Solicitors

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