Landmark case increases maintenance payments after 15 years

In a recent high-profile case, a woman had her maintenance payments substantially increased more than 15 years after agreeing a divorce settlement with her ex-husband.

Following their divorce in 2002, Maria Mills received £230,000 from her former spouse, plus £1,100 in monthly maintenance from Mr Mills.

Earlier this year, Mr Mills brought the matter back to court in a bid to have his maintenance liabilities reduced, now that their son was 21.

However, Mr Mills was in fact told he must increase his monthly maintenance payments to his former wife to £1,441 for the rest of her life – a ruling that has provoked controversy from many quarters.

The court heard how, in the years since the divorce, Mrs Mills had made some “unwise investments” which resulted in her having insufficient capital to own a property.

Mr Mills argued that he should not have to “pick up the tab” 15 years later and that the maintenance he was currently paying should be reduced or indeed terminated. Mrs Mills argued that she was “unable to meet her basic needs” and the maintenance payments should be increased.

Mr Mills, who is planning to appeal the decision, is calling for a change in the law, urging courts to consider a time limit on maintenance payments – currently such a threshold does not exist.

The published judgement is awaited. Critics have claimed that the law in England and Wales should move away from life-long maintenance to be brought in line with Scotland and the rest of Europe, but whether any changes are made to the current legal situation remains to be seen.

Jayne Cluff is a matrimonial specialist solicitor at Newcastle law firm Sintons. To speak to her about this or any other matter, contact her on or 0191 226 3692.

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