Married fathers: an exceptional parental responsibility status?
Sarah French | 20.06.2019
30.07.2018 Sarah French
You may have seen in the press recently the case in which the Supreme Court grappled with this question.
The background to this case is that Mr and Mrs Mills agreed at a hearing in 2002 a settlement which catered for Mrs Mills’ housing needs and ordered Mr Mills to pay Mrs Mills £1,100 per month spousal maintenance on a joint lives basis, i.e. for the rest of her life unless she remarried or entered into a civil partnership.
Following further litigation years later when Mr Mills tried to stop or reduce his payments the Court of Appeal increased Mrs Mills’ monthly maintenance payments from £1,100 to £1,441.
Mr Mills then appealed to the Supreme Court and was granted permission on the following basis:
“Whether, provision has already been made for [Mrs Mills’] housing costs in the capital settlement, the Court of Appeal erred in taking these into account when raising her periodical payments”.
The Supreme Court changed the maintenance back to the original £1,100, finding that Mr Mills should not be penalised for his ex-wife’s mismanagement of her divorce settlement monies intended to provide for her housing. They decided this despite Mrs Mills not deliberately mismanaging her funds; she was not wanton or reckless, and despite her requiring more money to meet her income needs.
Consequently, husbands in a similar position can hopefully feel more secure that their ex-wives cannot easily come back and ask for more money. The importance of making informed and carefully negotiated settlements at the outset is highlighted by this case. This can be done constructively in mediation or the collaborative process, both of which are offered here with our trained family law mediators and collaboratively trained lawyers, as well as in traditional solicitor negotiations.