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The end of ‘the meal ticket for life’?

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By Louisa Clark

The judgment of Waggott v Waggott[1] handed down on 11 April 2018 shows an indication that the courts are heading for a narrower view on maintenance.

Kim Waggott, the ex-wife of multi-millionaire William Waggott, had been awarded a lump sum settlement of £9.76m and £175,000 in annual maintenance payments for life on their divorce in 2012. The couple had been married for 12 years and have one child together. Originally both accountants, Mrs Waggott has not worked since 2001. Mr Waggott is now the finance director of TUI.

Mrs Waggott applied to Court to increase her maintenance payments by £23,000. However Mr Waggott has successfully challenged the original award, arguing that Mrs Waggott should start supporting herself and that she had sufficient resources for there to be a clean break between the parties.

Lord Justice Moylan ruled that the maintenance payments should stop after just three years, saying that “it was plain that the wife would be able to adjust without undue hardship to the termination of maintenance”. He suggested that Mrs Waggott could make up her shortfall from the loss of her maintenance payments by investing around 10% of her original lump sum (equating to £950,000) and living off the interest.

Lord Justice Moylan acknowledged that “long-term maintenance can be required as part of a fair outcome”. However, this case shows that we may now be heading towards a more stringent view on maintenance payments, reflecting other recent judgments and the 2016 Family Justice Council’s ‘Guidance on “Financial Needs” on Divorce’. This Guidance highlights the fact that there should be a transition towards independence, with a steer towards ending any obligations “at the earliest point which is just and reasonable”. The case of Waggott v Waggott shows that we are again seeing the court’s less generous view towards the stay at home wife who has not gone back to work following a divorce and it will be interesting to see how this continues.

[1] [2018] EWCA Civ 727

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