The former wife of a multimillionaire has lost a lifetime maintenance award at the Court of Appeal.
When Kim Waggott divorced her husband William in 2012, her annual income needs were assessed at £175,000. Much of this was to be supplied by her investment income but the shortfall was to be made up by maintenance paid by her husband. This would be on a ‘joint lives’ basis – i.e. until Mrs Waggott remarried, she or her ex-husband passed away or a further order was made by the court. The amount payable would be subject to review once her share of the couple’s pension funds became available.
In court William Waggott argued that that the maintenance award meant she had no incentive to return to the workplace and support herself, burdening him with her upkeep despite their divorce.
Nigel Dyer QC, acting for the husband, asked the court:
“How long should an order based on sharing last for? When does the meter stop ticking It is unfair to expect the husband to continue working long hours in demanding employment and not expect the wife to realise her earning potential as soon as is reasonably practicable.”
Mrs Waggott, meanwhile, was represented by James Turner QC.
In a detailed judgement, Lord Justice Moylan agreed, ruling that the annual maintenance payments stop after three years in order to achieve a clean break between the former couple. Mrs Waggott had a career in finance before her marriage and so would be able to get another job, the Judge declared.
“…it is plain to me that the wife would be able “to adjust without undue hardship” to the termination of maintenance.”
“During the course of the hearing, Mr Turner was evidently concerned that recent public debate about how the courts determine a spouse’s claim for maintenance might somehow intrude into the determination of this case. His particular focus was what he described as the unfair use of the expression “meal ticket for life” which, he suggested, was often deployed without regard to a spouse’s fair entitlement which might properly include long-term maintenance. I do not comment on his remarks, save to say that I, of course, acknowledge that long-term maintenance can be required as part of a fair outcome and also that I understand why he suggests that the expression “meal ticket for life” can be used as an unfair trope. However, I would make clear that my determination of this appeal has been based solely on my view of the proper application of the 1973 [Matrimonial Causes] Act … to the facts of this case.”
Mr and Mrs Waggott were married for 21 years and had a daughter. They lived in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, before the split. Mrs Waggott now lives near Chester and Mr Waggott near St Albans with his new partner.
You can read the full ruling here.
Image by Steve Johnson via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence