Supreme Court overturns decision to increase divorce monthly payments after 16yrs

By Lenore Rice

The Supreme Court has overturned a Court of Appeal decision to increase the monthly maintenance payments that were set when a couple divorced 16 years previously. following an application by the ex-wife who had lost a lump sum she had been awarded through “gross financial mismanagement”.

Graham and Maria Mills divorced in 2002 and it was agreed that Mrs Mills would be awarded a lump sum plus monthly payments of £1,100. The lump sum would have bought a house outright but Mrs Mills instead bought and sold a number of properties which turned out to be “unwise investments”, and was eventually left with nothing. In 2014 Mr Mills went to the family court seeking to have the monthly maintenance payments reduced, saying that she had lost the lump sum through “gross financial mismanagement” and was now in a position to work in order to supplement her earnings. Mrs Mills disagreed and argued that the payments should in fact be increased. The Court of Appeal agreed with Mrs Mills in 2017 and increased the monthly maintenance payments to £1,441.

The case went before the Supreme Court who overturned the decision of the Court of Appeal. While some tried to frame the decision as a victory against spousal maintenance for life, the truth is that Mr Mills is still required to pay the original monthly maintenance payment of £1,100 per month with no fixed date for the arrangement to end. The couple may choose to capitalise the monthly maintenance payments into one lump sum that would bring the agreement to an end, but both parties would have to agree the amount.

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