Court of Appeal denies wife lifetime maintenance award

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The Court of Appeal has removed the right to a lifetime maintenance award from the former wife of a multimillionaire.

Following a marriage that lasted 21 years, Kim and William Waggott broke up in 2012. As part of a divorce deal, the finance director of travel firm TUI was ordered to pay his wife £9.76 million in cash and assets, as well as maintenance on a ‘joint lives’ basis.

The maintenance deal arose after it was assessed that Ms Waggott would require an annual income of £175,000 for the rest of her life. The lion’s share of this was to be paid from her investments, with Mr Waggott ordered by the divorce judge to make up the shortfall. It was to be paid either until he or his ex-wife passed away, Ms Waggott remarried, or a further court order was made changing the terms of the deal.

Mr Waggott objected to the 2014 ruling and took his case to the appeals court. There it was argued that his ex-wife, who, like himself, was also an accountant, would have no incentive to return to work.

Meanwhile, Ms Waggott protested that the payments were not enough and had requested that they were increased.

The legal representative of Mr Waggott posed the following question to 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.”

Lord Justice Moylan, overseeing the proceedings in the Court of Appeal, agreed with Mr Waggott’s representatives and ruled that the maintenance payments should cease in three years’ time. He agreed that Ms Waggott would be able “to adjust without undue hardship” to the cessation of maintenance and added: “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.”

Graeme Fraser, of OGR Stock Denton, says: “England and Wales is sometimes perceived as a generous jurisdiction in terms of maintenance awards for wives because historically such awards have been for lifetime rather than limited to a term.

“In other countries, including Scotland, maintenance is limited to a fixed duration but it remains important to ensure that wives do not suffer undue hardship when maintenance comes to an end. Many cases may involve hardship where there is less overall wealth.”

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Graeme Fraser
Posted in Blog, Family Law.