Family law & the question of ongoing maintenance

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The issue of ongoing maintenance payments has once again come under the spotlight following a key ruling by the Supreme Court in the case of Mills v Mills.

The couple divorced in 2002 following a 15 year marriage. Upon the divorce, Mrs Mills was awarded a lump sum and a monthly allowance by way of maintenance.

In 2015, as a result of some unfortunate investment decisions, Mrs Mills asked the court to grant her an increased monthly allowance. At the same time Mr Mills asked the court to either completely stop or reduce the monthly amount.

In hearing the case, the judge found that Mrs Mills had unwisely managed her finances and she was now in a situation where her current financial needs exceeded the monthly maintenance payments paid by Mr Mills. The judge refused both parties applications and ordered that the original monthly amount continue.

Mrs Mills successfully appealed this decision to the Court of Appeal and was awarded an increase in the monthly maintenance payment. The court found that the judge had not given sufficient reasons as to why the husband should not meet all of the wife’s basic needs

Mr Mills then further appealed that decision to the Supreme Court where he, in turn, was successful.

The Supreme Court concluded that the Court of Appeal was wrong to say that the first judge had given insufficient reasons for refusing to award an increased monthly amount. The judge had been clear that the wife’s unwise decisions had increased the amount she required for her basic needs and as a result it would be unfair to the husband to expect him to pay an increased amount.


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Helen Starmer
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