Supreme Court divorce case is raising some interesting questions on spousal maintenance

Posted on: June 7th, 2018

The case of Mills v Mills came before the Supreme Court yesterday, 6 June 2018. This will provide a fundamental insight into the law concerning the variation of periodical payments, otherwise known as ‘spousal maintenance’.

In 2002 Mr and Mrs Mills agreed, by consent, that Mr Mills would make a lump sum payment to Mrs Mills and pay her £1100 per month for life.

Sometime after the original order was made, Mr Mills applied to the court to reduce or stop the spousal support when he learnt that Mrs Mills had spent the lump sum she was meant to use to re-house. He also argued that Mrs Mills had not maximised her earning capacity by undertaking more work.

Mrs Mills said that she was not able to meet her basic income needs and in fact required additional spousal maintenance from him. Initially the court ruled that her spousal support should continue at £1100 per month but Mr Mills appealed. When the Court of Appeal heard the case in 2014, it surprisingly awarded Mrs Mills more spousal maintenance. Since then Mr Mills has now asked the Supreme Court to hear his case.

This case raises some interesting questions. Do ex- wife’s needs take precedence even if she is found to have mis-managed her money? At what point should an ex-spouse become financially independent? Is the notion of lifetime spousal maintenance an outdated concept?

It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court will rule as this is likely to have a lasting impact on the Court’s approach to lifetime spousal maintenance.

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