Husband to pay former wife extra because she 'lost £232,000'

A husband has been ordered to pay his former wife £341 more each month because she had made bad financial decisions and lost the £232,000 lump sum she was awarded when the couple divorced in 2002.

Graham and Maria Mills had married in 1988 and had one child.

Mr Mills agreed to pay her £1,100 a month and give her £232,000, which was nearly all of their liquid assets.

The couple returned to court last year with Mrs Mills asking for more maintenance and Mr Mills asking for a clean break.

The court heard that Mrs Mills had "unwisely invested in a series of properties” and had lost most of the money from the settlement.

Judge Everall dismissed both their challenges and the case went to the Court of Appeal.

Mr Mills’ barrister, Philip Cayford QC, said Mr Mills has remarried, has a new family and wanted to move on with his wife.

"This is a case where the wife leaves the marriage with all, or almost all the liquid capital, then says she needs maintenance for another 50 years, despite proving herself capable of working to a high standard.

"It is the husband's case that he should not be the insurer against the wife's poor financial decisions, taken over the course of the 15 years that have passed since the original ancillary relief order.”

Mrs Mills’ barrister, Frank Feehan, QC, said that while Judge Everall had said that she was not a good businesswoman and did not manage her finances well, she was not "profligate or wanton in her approach to her finances".

Mr Feehan added: "Here was a woman, left in 2002 with responsibility for a young child, without enough money to buy a house which was good enough in her view. It was reasonable for her to get a mortgage."

"She had health issues throughout and a child to bring up."

The Court of Appeal held that the maintenance money should be increased. It pointed out that at the earlier hearing, Judge Everall had calculated Mrs Mills needs at £1,441 but had not gone on to order that the figure should be enforced.

Giving the court’s ruling, Sir Ernest Ryder said: "The judge made an error of principle. The order should have been that the husband pay maintenance in the sum of £1,441 a month until further order of the court.”

"The husband has and had the ability to make the maintenance payments asked for."

Please contact Steve Johnston on 0208 290 7331 or email if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of family law.

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