A husband ordered to pay his wife interim maintenance is not doing his “reasonable best” to make the payments, a court has ruled.
In Arif v Anwar, the husband had been ordered to his estranged wife ‘maintenance pending suit’. This is sometimes paid during the period between separation and completion of the divorce if the financially dependant partner cannot make ends meet until the final settlement.
In this case , the husband was required to pay £5,000 per month, along with school fees for the couple’s child. He was also ordered to provide his wife with a car . He only made the payments for two months and failed to buy the car. The wife applied for permission to enforce payment of the arrears.
In the High Court, Mr Justice Norris considered her application, as well as whether or not the sanctions should be imposed on him for failing to comply with the order. He noted that the husband’s business was failing, but that he had chosen to continue with this rather than return to paid employment, where he had considerable earning potential. As a result of his financial difficulties, the court which had ordered the interim maintenance had recognised that he might struggle to pay it but said he could borrow from family and friends to cover any shortfall.
The judge granted the woman permission to enforce the arrears. He noted that payment of the child’s school fees would leave the husband with just £250 a month left from his income “as spending money”. Consequently he ordered a lump sum payment of £25,000, against both maintenance arrears and legal fees owing.
The wife also applied for a ‘Hadkinson order’, also known as an ‘unless order’. These are issued when one party has failed to comply with a legal order and prevent them from making any further applications unless and until they do so. She wanted the husband to be prevented from pursuing his own applications in the case unless he paid the sum of £77,000, which was half the arears due.
The husband’s failure to make payments had impeded “the course of justice”, the Judge declared. Moreover, the court could not be sure that it had received an accurate statement of the husband’s assets or that he was making proper efforts to generate income.
The Judge declared:
“The question really is, is he trying to do his reasonable best to meet the order which the court has made? And in that connection I am not satisfied that he is doing his reasonable best to obtain remunerative employment. It may be comfortable to work for ten hours a week as a consultant when all your living expenses are paid. But in my judgment the Husband’s obligation is not simply to maintain a comfortable life for himself, it is also to satisfy his obligations under the court order. And I am not satisfied that he is doing his reasonable best to achieve that end.”
The Judge issued a Hadkinson order requiring the husband to make a payment of £25,000 against the arrears. The sum requested by the wife would not be appropriate given the man’s income, he said.; The husband was also ordered to pay £10,000 towards his wife’s legal costs.
Read the judgement here.
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