24 August 2017
What am I Entitled to? Making Sure All is Fair in Love And Divorce
It’s pretty common for couples to profess to love and support each other when they say their wedding vows. And while it’s something they’ll happily do while all is well with their marriage, that bit about supporting becomes a real bone of contention when relationships break down.
Take, for example, the recent case of Graham and Maria Mills.
This is a case where the parties divorced in 2002, with the husband agreeing, as part of the settlement, to pay his ex-wife £1,100 a month for the rest of her life.
However, in 2014, Mr Mills applied to reduce the maintenance but Mrs Mills cross applied for an increase. At trial, Mr Mills argued that his former wife had grossly mismanaged her finances leading to a loss of capital, which resulted in her living in rented accommodation.
Much was made in previous media reports about this money mismanagement and Mr Mills being treated unfairly as a “cash machine”. However, the judge did not find this. Despite a shortfall for Mrs Mills of £341 per month, both applications were dismissed.
Both parties appealed and while Mr Mills’ appeal was dismissed, Mrs Mills was successful and the judge increased her monthly maintenance to £1,441 per month.
We’re often asked what constitutes a fair settlement and it’s always a difficult one because there isn’t a strict formula.
If it’s a long marriage the starting point is to split 50/50. However, if a wife and mother is left in a house with three children, she may need more capital as their housing needs would be a priority.
If you had never worked because you had been the homemaker and main carer for the children, but your husband had a pension then you might also ask for a share of that, to support you in retirement.
Judges take into consideration your expenses and will ask for a detailed rundown of your outgoings including everything from childcare costs to TV licence payments.
The objective of the court is to consider a spouse making a transition to financial independence where possible. Mrs Mills however, was unable to do this due to a period of ill health and lack of means. The outcome in their case therefore does not appear to be unreasonable.
Reaching a fair settlement relies on both parties being honest about their earnings, investments and outgoings. And luckily, there are penalties for those who aren’t. If a partner hasn’t complied with their duty of disclosure the court may take this into account when making their final order.