Lifetime maintenance payments after divorce

A recent family law case has emphasised that the courts can exercise discretion when determining how long maintenance payments should last for.

It was decided that maintenance payable to a woman by her ex-husband should be substantially reduced as he approached retirement (aged 59). He was concerned that his maintenance payments of £33,200 a year plus his two children’s school fees, would become unaffordable. He applied to the High Court for a variation of the order and the judge ruled that his payments should be steadily reduced to zero over a five year period.

The woman has a mortgage free home worth £450,000 following the sale of the marital home after the 11 year marriage. She had made no effort to find work in the six years since the divorce and the judge commented that large numbers of women with children also work. Her lawyers challenged the decision in the court of appeal, stating that her childcare duties were full time and the reduction in maintenance payments would seriously impact the children’s lifestyles.

The appeal was refused and the judge did not accept the reasons given for not finding work. It is generally expected that once children are over the age of seven, mothers should seek at least part time work and make a financial contribution. The original maintenance order had never been intended to provide the woman with an income for life.

For more information about divorce, separation, finance or children matters, please contact our family team on 0115 9888 777.

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