Be careful what you wish for – a Court of Appeal case examined

Alison Articles

Alison Dukes of AMD Solicitors considers the recent Court of Appeal case of Waggott v Waggott on spousal maintenance.

 

A wife is likely to be regretting her decision to appeal against a spousal maintenance award of £175,000 made against her former husband. He was due to have to pay her maintenance until the death of the first of them or until her remarriage.

 

Details of the appeal

When the wife appealed the decision and sought an extra £15,000 per year plus a share of the husband’s bonuses from his employment, the husband himself put in an appeal against the decision of the first Judge. He sought a clean financial break so that he did not have to pay any further maintenance at all after a fixed period of 5 years.

 

The Court of Appeal dismissed the wife’s appeal while the husband’s appeal was allowed. In short, this means that having previously expected to receive maintenance from the husband for life (or until she remarries), the wife’s maintenance will now end in 2021 after a five year period.

 

The Court took account of the wife’s capital settlement of £9.76million. Some of those monies had been used to purchase a home in this country and a holiday home abroad but there was a substantial balance remaining.

The court's decision

In capital terms, the Court calculated that the shortfall in the wife’s income if a five-year term was imposed equated to around £950,000. The wife had free capital of £4.6million after the purchase of her properties. The view of the Court of Appeal was that even if the wife used £950,000 of those monies to plug any gap in her income she would still have substantial free capital in addition to her two properties. She would be able to adjust “without undue hardship” to the termination of her maintenance and the outcome would not be unfair in all the circumstances.

 

The wife had worked as an accountant early in the marriage but had not worked since 2003. The parties had one child who was born in 2004. The Court of Appeal made the further point that the wife would also be able to obtain employment to supplement her other income.

 

Applications to vary maintenance or to appeal Court orders should be considered very carefully before proceedings are issued. For advice on all aspects of Family Law, please contact our family solicitors in Bristol, Alison Dukes or Jo Morris. They can be reached at AMD’s Henleaze office at 100 Henleaze Road, by calling  0117 9621205 or by emailing Alison at alisondukes@amdsolicitors.com.

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