Spousal Maintenance Wright v Wright

Anne Thistlethwaite a Solicitor and Mediator at AMD Solicitors considers a recent case on Spousal Maintenance and a judge’s comments on when a mother should be expected to return to work

In 1973 the Matrimonial Causes Act came into being. This is still the legislation we apply to sort out a couple’s financial assets and obligations on divorce. When I started in practice in the 1980s, Judges talked about a 10 to 12 year marriage being a “medium length” marriage and a “long marriage” was 15 to 20 years. Over this time however many more couples are divorcing after 30 years or more so it makes a 10 year marriage seem quite short. Nevertheless, in a 10 year period, say, a wife may have given up her job and have three young children in primary school. Why do I mention this? Mrs Wright was in the news recently as a Judge told her that she is expected to go back to work now that her children are 16 and 10 years old.

When the original maintenance order had been made, in 2008, the youngest child had been only 3 years old. The Judge at that time said that within a couple of years the wife should be contributing financially, whilst fitting in with her child care responsibilities. Before the marriage she had worked as a Legal Secretary and an Administrator. The Judge said that there was “a general expectation that once a child is in Year 2, most mothers can consider part-time work consistent with their obligations to their children”. By 2012, the husband’s financial circumstances had worsened so he applied to the court for the maintenance to be reduced. It seems that in the intervening years, the wife had not made any effort to find employment. It is also reported that the wife was rather evasive on questions about her own earning capacity. Her spousal maintenance was reduced.

This case is fact specific as are all cases you hear about, each case depending on the circumstances. There are a number of factors, not just the length of the marriage and ages of the children that are relevant to the financial outcome in each case.

 If you are in the process of separating or want to review an existing spousal maintenance order AMD Solicitors can advise on all the financial implications.  AMD Solicitors have offices in Henleaze, Clifton and Shirehampton and Anne or one of her colleagues can be contacted on 0117 962 1460 or by email to annethistlethwaite@amdsolicitors.com.

This article is provided for general information purposes only and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at the date of uploading. This article should not be relied upon as legal advice pertaining to any specific factual situation. Legal decisions should be made only after proper consultation with a legal professional of your choosing.

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