Times are changing for maintenance payments

Nicola Furmston

A chill wind is blowing for wives who expect their husbands to pay maintenance for them indefinitely.

In a case involving a wealthy horse surgeon and his wife, the Court of Appeal has ruled that the wife’s long-term maintenance order must come to an end and that she must make steps towards self-support.

Lord Justice Pitchford said: “There is a general expectation that, once children are in year two (age seven), mothers can begin part-time work and make a financial contribution”. In this case the wife had done nothing to prepare herself for work and the husband was concerned that, once he reached retirement, he would no longer be able to make maintenance payments.

The law relating to maintenance payments came from an era when the majority of women didn’t work and those who did often had low paid jobs and inequality of income. Now many couples are both working and a small percentage of women are stay at home mums.

Lord Justice Pitchford’s view reflects modern times and women seeking to persuade the court that they are simply unable to achieve self-support are going to have a very hard time indeed.

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Nicola Furmston is a solicitor specialising in the family field at Barker Gotelee, Solicitors in Ipswich.