The latest in a saga of cases on Spousal Maintenance was decided by the Supreme Court on 18th July 2018. The outcome of Mills v Mills has been eagerly anticipated by family lawyers across the country.
Mr and Mrs Mills divorced in 2002 after 15 years of marriage. During their divorce proceedings, a settlement was reached, whereby Mr Mills was to pay Mrs Mills £1,100 per month in Spousal Maintenance.
In what the Court described as a series of unwise financial decisions, Mrs Mills lived beyond her means and ended up with no capital and debts of £42,000 by 2015. To make up the shortfall, and to cover her residential rental costs, Mrs Mills applied to court to have her Spousal Maintenance increased.
The first decision of the court was that it would be unfair to compel Mr Mills to pay for Mrs Mills rental costs, when there was a settlement in 2002 that gave Mrs Mills enough money to live mortgage free. The Spousal Maintenance was not increased.
Still struggling financially, Mrs Mills appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal allowed her appeal and increased the Spousal Maintenance due to her to £1,441 per month.
Mr Mills then appealed this decision to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court allowed Mr Mills’ appeal and approved of the judge’s original decision. There would have to be a very good reason in circumstances such as this to require a spouse to pay the other’s rent.
Although this particular case related to a narrow set of circumstances, the decision is significant as it places emphasis on divorced people being financially independent, rather than relying on their ex-spouse financially in years to come. There is a trend in judicial decision-making that supports this.