Wife fails in her application for maintenance decades after divorce

Children|Divorce|News|April 17th 2013

Wedding ringA woman has failed in her application for maintenance from the husband she divorced almost 20 years ago.

T v T concerned a couple who married in 1985, when both were in their early 20s. They had one child, now of university age, but the couple separated in 1991.

They reached an agreement by which they would divorce after two years of ‘separation with consent’. The agreement set out that the husband was to transfer his share of the former family home and a property in France in exchange for a lump sum payment of £175,000. He also agreed child support for their daughter.

The former couple completed their divorce in 1995, but their financial agreement was never made into a binding court order. At the time the wife was wealthier than the husband. But after the split the man’s career prospered while his former wife’s circumstances deteriorated.

Last year she returned to court seeking maintenance via a ‘financial remedy order’, on the grounds that the financial agreement with her former husband was never mind into a binding court order. She claimed to be “in need”, earning less than £30,000 a year and with most of her remaining capital tied up in her home.

The man, meanwhile, applied for the original financial agreement to be made into a binding court order.

Sitting in the Family Division of the High Court, Mrs Justice Parker  said of the financial agreement:

“The parties have acted upon it, relied on it, and gained peace of mind from it, or certainly were entitled to gain peace of mind from it, for over 20 years. In those circumstances the existence of the agreement must be regarded of magnetic importance…”

She added:

“The length of time which has occurred since the agreement has been made secures the agreement rather than undermining it, since it was never treated as a nullity or as redundant.”

Mrs Justice Parker concluded:

“…there were no expectations that any change in position would enable the court to look at this matter again. In these circumstances the wife has not shown cause why the agreement should not be made an order of the court.”

The wife was ordered to pay the husband’s costs. Applications for financial remedies are normally exempt from orders that the losing side pay the winner’s costs but the judge declared that:

“…these proceedings are not financial remedy proceedings of the normal nature.”

Photo by Eivind Barstad Waaler via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

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