The above noted expression is often used where there is ongoing spousal maintenance (or periodical payments) made to an ex-spouse on a joint lives basis (where payments continue indefinitely until say for example, the ex-spouse being paid the maintenance, re-marries).
In the case of Mr and Mrs Mills, after a 15 year marriage, the parties had agreed a settlement by consent where Mrs Mills would received £230,000 capital and they agreed joint lives spousal maintenance of £1,100 per month. The capital payment was intended as a housing fund for Mrs Mills, but instead Mrs Mills used those monies in various property transactions (which proved to be problematic and created liabilities for her). Mrs Mills later started to work part-time and had built up debts of £42,000 and was also living in rented accommodation. She had a monthly short-fall because of this in terms of her income.
Mrs Mills applied to the Court for an upward variation of the monthly spousal maintenance whilst Mr Mills sought a downward variation or discharge of such payments. Initially, the applications were both dismissed by the Court. However, the Court of Appeal increased Mrs Mills’ monthly payments to £1,441 per month, as the Court took into account that Mr Mills could afford such payments.
However, the Supreme Court restored the original amount of spousal maintenance but not the increased amount.
This case is interesting in that the Court indicated that where provision has already been made (in this case to Mrs Mills), any variation applications for maintenance do not necessarily create an expectation that the paying party will necessarily be liable to meet further needs created by, in this case, mismanagement by Mrs Mills of her finances, even if it is clear that Mr Mills could afford to make such payments.
Whilst this case has the headline grabbing references to the question “is this case the end of a meal ticket for life?”, it is unclear if this case does establish any principles in relation to “joint lives maintenance” because of the specific circumstances of this case. It does however highlight how protracted (and costly) variation applications can be.
If you would like to discuss "joint lives maintenance" or any other aspect of divorce and separation with a solicitor please contact Paul Wild in Reading, who offers a confidential initial fixed fee meeting at our offices in Queens Road for £95 including VAT, on 0118 958 9711 or [email protected] – or click the link above and fill in the form on our website to arrange an appointment.