In February 2015 the media reported on a Court of Appeal decision where the ex-wife of a millionaire racehorse surgeon was told by the judge to get a job as she has ‘no right to be supported for life’ by her ex-husband.
In this case the couple had been married for 11 years. Following their separation in 2008 the £1.3m family home had been sold and the proceeds split between them with the wife purchasing a £450,000 mortgage free property. Her ex-husband was ordered to pay her and her two children £75,000 a year in maintenance and school fees, which included the sum of £33,200 spousal maintenance.
The husband returned the matter to the High Court in 2014 to seek a reduction in the amount he had to pay, arguing that it would not be fair for him to be expected to keep supporting his ex-wife indefinitely even after his proposed retirement, while she made no effort to find a job. The High Court judge told the wife that she needed to get a job. The wife appealed and the Court of Appeal agreed, saying that it was imperative the wife got a job to support herself and the spousal maintenance payments would tail off over 5 years before ceasing completely.
There has certainly been a shift in the way the Courts approach spousal maintenance over recent years and it was widely regarded that the law in England and Wales had become far too favourable to the spouse who receives the ongoing spousal maintenance. There is a sea of change and a divorcing spouse can no longer realistically expect to have their income needs met by their former spouse for many years after the divorce, particularly where they can reasonably be expected to go out to work.
This case is the latest in a line of decisions where Judges have taken the view that spousal maintenance is no longer a meal ticket for life.