In Mills v Mills  UKSC 38, the Supreme Court has allowed a husband’s appeal against an order, secured in the Court of Appeal, which increased the level of his periodical payments so as to cover her shortfall between existing periodical payments and her current needs.
Hazel Wright, partner in the family department at Lincoln’s Inn firm Hunters Solicitors, commented:
“All maintenance cases ultimately have to answer one basic question: “how long and how much?” Today’s Supreme Court ruling regarding the divorce maintenance settlement of Mr and Mrs Mills cuts to the heart of this question.
“Mr and Mrs Mills lived well during their 13 year marriage, largely due to his financial contribution as chairman of the surveying company Technics Group. On divorce, they negotiated a settlement by which she took most of the liquid capital, to provide her with housing and a lump sum. Once these has been provided, the only remaining link between them was the sharing of his income with her. There was no limit on how long this should last and nothing to stop either of them asking for a variation of that provision.
“Mrs Mills clearly wanted to go on living well after the divorce by relying on that income. Like many people, she decided to increase her own capital by buying and selling homes, trading up each time and eventually could not afford her mortgage. She has spent the rest of the capital from the divorce, so she found herself renting a home.
“Conversely, Mr Mills wanted simply to move on from the marriage and the divorce. He asked the court to break the income link. So he applied to court on the basis that Mrs Mills had been irresponsible over money and should be able to meet her own housing needs. He also wanted to buy out her remaining income dependence on him.
“Today, the Supreme Court agreed that it is time for Mrs Mills to be independent and to meet her increased housing costs herself.
“The court has ruled that it would be unfair to Mr Mills to be saddled with an obligation to keep up the maintenance payments to Mrs Mills at the level she wanted, £1,441 per month rather than the £1,100 per month he was paying. She had already had a clean break which provided for her housing. To give more of his income, Mr Mills would effectively be paying for her housing again.”