The case of the marriage of Mr and Mrs Mills continues to raise eyebrows and headlines.
In this case, a couple divorced in 2002, having been married for 15 years. At that time the wife received a lump sum of £230,000 plus yearly payments of £13,200. The wife made some poor investment decisions, ran up debts and was left in rented accommodation. To the surprise of many, she returned to court to seek an increase in the level of the monthly payments being made to her by her ex husband. To the surprise of even more, the Court of Appeal agreed to her application.
Mr Mills appealed to the Supreme Court which recently held that he should not have to increase the periodical payments to her.
Whilst this seems a victory for common sense, it is a hollow victory for Mr Mills. As he has pointed out, he is still required to pay his wife the originally agreed sum. He has been making these payments for longer than the pair were married so his disappointment is understandable.
Commentators have observed that the courts do appear to have an increasing expectation that a non-earning spouse should take more responsibility for their finances after divorce. These cases have been referred to as the so called ‘meal ticket’ cases.
It is fair to say that the Mills case is fairly narrow in its scope. The broader point is that the case is a reminder that a party to a marriage can return to court many years after the marriage has ended to seek an increase in periodical payments. The only way that this could be avoided in most cases is for the parties to have a ‘clean break’ in terms of the finances at the time of the divorce.
The case highlights the importance of obtaining legal advice at the time of the divorce to ensure that all options in relation to the split of the finances are properly considered.
If you are affected by this issue or any other matrimonial related matter, contact us.