Love you ’til the end – Joint Lives Maintenance
In 1973 the UK joined the EU. At midnight on the 1st January the UK flag was raised above the ECC headquarters in Brussels and celebrations were held across the city. We entered the union, as many do, with optimism. In the same year the Matrimonial Causes Act marched its way into the statute books with one aim: to shift the focus of divorce from whose fault it was to the fair division of assets.
Prior to this the blame ridden system would see a wife receive, if she was lucky, a much reduced maintenance payment should the reason for divorce be “her fault”. We have come a long way since then, but some argue that we may have come too far. On the 6th of February the Court of Appeal handed down their judgement in the case of Mills v Mills in which they upped Mrs. Mills’ maintenance payments due to the fact that she had unwisely invested her lump sum resulting in large financial losses. It is cases like these that seem to support the idea that your ex. could easily be your way to a free ride.
So, where do we draw the line? Baroness Deech believes that the line should be firmly drawn at three years, similar to the Scottish system. She claims that, “our judges are being very old-fashioned… People wonder why, 15 years after a marriage has ended, one person has to keep paying money to another.” And she may be right, many a husband or wife have asked why. We may sympathise with the individual who slaves away for hours on end at work to watch a percentage of their earnings be handed over to their ex. It is hard for some to comprehend the idea that they may be responsible for their ex. partner for years to come whilst their ex. may not have and may never feel the need to enter into some form of employment. However, we must not overlook some very important counter arguments.
Social media fell into a flurry of posts and debate this week as the newspapers reported, erroneously, that Lord Wilson stated that “ex-wives DO deserve a meal ticket for life”, in his speech to the University of Bristol Law Club. In fact, Lord Wilson stated that, “the trouble is that it is usually unrealistic to tell a wife, left on her own perhaps at age 60 after a long marriage, that, following payments for say three years, she must fend for herself”. And, he has a strong point to make. Many may argue that the wife should get a job, but let’s think about this: We have a husband and wife who together decide that the wife should give up her career to look after the children. They remain happily married for a while, however as the years pass they fall out of love and finally they decide to divorce. Now, how do we ensure a fair outcome? We have a woman in her sixties, who has no prospect of building a career and is theoretically only five years away from retirement. Surely, it’s unfair to penalise her because of their joint decision?
The Chartered Insurance Institute recently published a report that shows that divorce is a significant financial risk to women who are often left “vulnerable” by the joint decisions they make whilst married. Further, Professor Stephen Jenkin’s conducted a survey in which he tracked the changing wealth of individuals in Britain following divorce. The survey showed that the income of divorced husbands rises “immediately and continuously” following a marital split, whilst divorced women suffer a sharp fall in their income.
And so, where does this leave us? The answers to these questions are complex and will play themselves out in the weeks to come as Baroness Deech’s paper makes its way through Parliament. And so we are only left with one final question, as Theresa May embarks on the biggest divorce in centuries we might ask ourselves if there will be some form of “free ride” involved or not?
For more details on this or a family law matter, please do not hesitate to contact James or Frank. Paradigm Family Law offers a free initial consultation and our fixed fee solutions cover financial proceedings from start to finish. You can call us on 01904 217225 or email us to [email protected]. You can also follow us on twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook for the latest news and views on family law.
About the Author: Zoe White – thanks very much to guest blogger Zoe, who wrote this post. Look out for Part 2 coming soon, dealing with International Maintenance Issues.