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Financial Settlements

No more wife for life

Earlier this week, a ruling in the Family Courts signalled a long awaited change in the approach to wives who have previously believed that they should be maintained for life!

The wife of a millionaire racehorse surgeon who carries out lifesaving treatment on race horses has finally been ordered to get a job. The landmark ruling from the Court of Appeal has confirmed that stay at home mothers can no longer be expected to be kept by their ex-husbands if their children have reached seven years of age.

Mr and Mrs Wright divorced back in 2008 which resulted in the husband being ordered to pay £75,000 per year as part of spousal maintenance and school fees. This was to continue even when Mr Wright retired from his profession.

Mr Wright returned the case to the court protesting that it was not fair that he should continue to support his ex-wife indefinitely whilst she made "no effort whatsoever to seek work". Over the years since the parties divorced, Mrs Wright continued to live off Mr Wright’s maintenance payments, her reasons for doing so and avoiding paid employment was that she had responsibilities for animals, trees and housekeeping!

In addition to her annual £75,000 maintenance payments of which over £33,000 was available to fund her own lifestyle, Mrs Wright who lives with her daughter received a £450,000 mortgage free home in Suffolk and stables for her horses and her daughters’ ponies. She argued that caring for her daughter, who is ten years of age and also in a private boarding school might I add, “was an inherent restriction on her ability to develop any kind of earning capacity in the next five years”. What sort of example is she setting her young daughter I hear you ask? Well, she was quite rightly criticised by the Court for being 'evasive on the subject of her own earning capacity.’

The ruling given by the Court of Appeal sends a clear message for financial settlement cases – divorcees who have become accustomed to a work-free lifestyle will have to make an effort to gain employment once the children of the family reach seven years of age.

There have already been changes to the way the Courts have dealt with financial settlements and the way in which they have ordered maintenance payments over recent years with lifetime maintenance orders now scarcely implemented. Now comes a further transformation for fixed term maintenance orders and the Court’s outlook is rapidly changing towards stay at home mothers. Women were once compensated for giving up employment to care for their children, however nowadays we can see a shift towards the belief that they should be contributing to their family’s needs and returning to the world of employment, without solely relying on their ex-husbands. 

We at Pinder Reaux, a firm specialising in representing husbands in divorce matters and financial settlements certainly welcome this long awaited change.  Not only will this change in approach apply to matters before the courts now, but there is also an opportunity for those husbands who have already been ordered to pay maintenance for life, to have their orders reviewed.  Come and speak to us and let us assess your matter and potentially change your financial settlement – to suit you.

Simone Barton

Trainee Solicitor