The High Court has sided with the husband in an application for interim maintenance payments.
The legal circles for interim maintenance is ‘maintenance pending suit’. This is sometimes awarded to financially dependent spouses if they cannot support themselves prior to the couple’s divorce hearing and the conclusion of their financial settlement.
BD v FD concerned a wealthy couple who married in 2002 and went on have four children, now aged between three and eight years of age. The marriage came to an end during 2013 and the parties finally went their separate ways in 2014. Following the split, the husband bought a new home nearby for the wife and children, at a cost of £2.9 million, more than the estimated value of the former matrimonial home.
The husband was extremely wealthy, with assets of approximately £49 million, along with additional assets tied up in legal trusts of as much as £100 million. He also earns an income of approximately £1.7 million a year.
The wife’s wealth was more modest – approximately £4.9 million, including the £2.9 million home, along with an additional £1.4 million in “cash and investments”. These funds were also partly provided by the husband when he paid her £1 million to transfer assets held in her name to his, in order to avoid “adverse tax consequences”.
The wife applied for maintenance pending suit of not less than £270,000 per year but she argued that that it should in fact be as much as £392,000. The husband offered the lower sum of £202,000.
In the High Court, Mr Justice Moylan noted the wife’s statements that the family had enjoyed an “extremely high standard of living” but also that “her accounts were always overdrawn during the marriage and that meeting those family expenses for which she was responsible, on the sums paid to her by the husband, was a constant struggle.”
However, the Judge concluded that the wife’s maintenance requests nevertheless included “a significant element of forensic exaggeration”.
He was satisfied, he said, that the sum sought, £392,000, exceeded the standard of living she had actually enjoyed during the marriage. He added:
“That standard is not necessarily a ceiling but, in my view, there would need to be some specific, powerful, justification for that standard being exceeded on an interim basis. No such reason exists in this case.”
The wife’s precise income needs would be determined at the couple’s eventual settlement hearing. In the meantime, the sum proposed by the husband was a “reasonable sum by way of maintenance pending suit”.
Reasonableness is the only criteria specified by section 22 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, governing maintenance pending suit. This states that such awards should be “just and reasonable”.
Read the judgement here.
Photo by Rafael Saffirio via Flickr