John Bolch on maintenance pending suit in practice

Divorce|April 8th 2014

I previously discussed maintenance pending suit in this post. I referred there to a couple of cases decided by Mr Justice Mostyn, including MET v HAT. Another maintenance pending suit decision by him has just been published, and I thought I would have a quick look at it, as it demonstrates the somewhat ‘quick and robust’ approach taken in such cases.

The judgment was CC v NC. It concerned a wife aged 70 and a husband aged 68, who were married way back in 1970. The marriage broke down and the wife commenced divorce proceedings here last November. The husband then issued divorce proceedings of his own in Austria, the wife’s homeland. Obviously, a decision will have to be made as to where the divorce is to proceed.

The wife then applied for maintenance pending suit, and the application went before Mr Justice Mostyn on the 3rd of March.

The husband argued that, in view of the uncertainty over whether the divorce will proceed here, any maintenance award should be discounted, as Mr Justice Mostyn himself had ordered in the MET v HAT case. However, Mr Justice Mostyn distinguished this case from MET v HAT, essentially because the wife had a stronger argument for the matter to proceed here than the wife in that case. Accordingly, there would be no such discount.

Mr Justice Mostyn then moved on to quickly consider the budget that the wife had prepared. This indicated that she required the sum of £393,000 per annum to cover her essential outgoings.

The largest item on the budget was the sum of £170,000, which the wife said she needed to rent a house in London, as she couldn’t share the former matrimonial home with the husband when they were both in this country (they both now spend time abroad).  Mr Justice Mostyn found this position to be untenable – the parties could easily make sure that they were not both in the property at the same time. Accordingly, he disallowed the £170,000.

Moving on, Mr Justice Mostyn removed a further £7,000 from the wife’s budget in respect of health insurance, as the husband would pay that direct. He also removed £6,000 for the cost of leasing a car, saying that she could use the car that the parties jointly own.

Mr Justice Mostyn then briefly turned his attention to the amount that the wife was claiming that she needed for certain expenses.

She had claimed £24,000 a year for clothes and footwear. Mr Justice Mostyn considered that that was twice as much as she needed.

She had claimed £18,000 a year for eating in restaurants. Mr Justice Mostyn reduced that by £8,000.

Lastly, she had claimed £70,000 a year for holidays and European flights. Mr Justice Mostyn slashed that by £20,000.

All of those deductions came to £223,000, reducing the wife’s budget to £170,000. That is the sum that Mr Justice Mostyn ordered the husband to pay by way of maintenance pending suit. He had completed the whole calculation exercise in just seven short paragraphs.

Quite how long the maintenance will be payable is not yet clear – a hearing has been fixed for December, for the court to decide where the divorce is to take place. If it takes place here, then the wife will proceed with her financial remedies application, and that could obviously take some time.

So there we are. Not a particularly important decision (other, of course, than to the parties), but it does demonstrate the robust approach that the court takes to the calculation of maintenance pending suit – quite different from the much more considered approach that would usually be taken in calculating a final maintenance order.

Photo of shoe box by Gverds via Flickr 

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers.

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  1. Latest Married Budget News « Budgeted Life says:

    […] Maintenance pending suit in practice The largest item on the budget was the sum of £170,000, which the wife said she needed to rent a house in London, as she couldn't share the former matrimonial home with the husband when they were both in this country (they both now spend time abroad). Read more on Marilyn Stowe Blog […]

  2. Tracy W says:

    How can £170,000 a year be regarded as “essential outgoings” for anyone? How can restaurant visits be regarded as essential? Or, given that they live in London, a car?

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