Graham and Maria Mills separated in 2000. At the time of the divorce Mrs Mills was to receive a lump sum which was sufficient for her to buy a mortgage-free family home. She also received a monthly maintenance allowance for life. During the intervening years Mrs Mills made some unwise property investments and eventually lost her property and was left in rented accommodation with no capital.

Mr Mills applied to the Court to reduce the periodical payments order and for a term order (an order which is limited to a certain number of years), Mrs Mills applied to increase the maintenance as she could not afford to meet her regular outgoings including the rent. The Court decided that although they would not stop Mr Mills’ basic maintenance payments, they would not increase the payments to Mrs Mills caused by her inappropriate property dealings and her thereby increasing needs.

This was an interesting case in so far as the Court determined that Mrs Mills should not receive any further payments and thereby effectively have a double recovery of benefit, bearing in mind the original order, it did not stop the payments by Mr Mills indicating that the payments should continue for life.

There is some appetite for reform of the current system in particular husbands who are financially obliged to support their former wife for many years find that they just can’t move on. It is not every case that carries a spousal maintenance order for life and the Court does have power to issue term orders. Clearly these are important issues and could conceivably result in a substantial financial liability to husbands. It is therefore important to obtain appropriate legal advice with regard to these matters.