A recent case in the Court of Appeal varying spousal maintenance some years after the original divorce settlement in 2008 appears to have set a precedent for lower family courts. It now seems that a former spouse may not be able to rely on continuing to receive spousal maintenance indefinitely, and in the words of the judge will need to “get a job”.
Tracey Wright was entitled to £75,000 spousal maintenance annually under the original terms of the settlement. However, her horse surgeon ex-husband applied to end this as he approached retirement age.
Both the family judge, and Pitchford LJ in the Court of Appeal agreed that it was unreasonable for Mrs Wright to continue to receive these payments.
The general principle is that a spouse whose earning capacity is reduced following divorce, for example a wife who gives up her job to care for the couple’s young children, should receive financial support. The court will consider the division of other assets in calculating a reasonable amount.
Although it has always been the case that the disadvantaged spouse has to mitigate their position- in other words, try to find a way to pay for their needs themselves- and that spousal maintenance would only last for a certain period of time to allow the disadvantaged spouse to progressively become independent, this case appears to formalise this. It remains to be seen how the lower courts will apply this, however it seems that the days of receiving lifelong spousal maintenance are well and truly over.
Read more about the case on The Telegraph.
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