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Landmark ruling for spouses of wealthy partners

Member: Nifa

In a recent landmark ruling, the ex-wife of a wealthy equine vet will have her personal maintenance payments stopped and was told to get a job and not expect to live off her husband for the rest of her life. In addition, the judge said that divorcees with children aged over seven should work for a living, a decision which signals an end to leisurely living for ex-partners of wealthy spouses.
The case was initially brought last year when Ian Wright (who had been making an annual payment of £75,000 for his two children and his ex-wife) worried that he would not be able to continue with them when he retires in six years. A family judge agreed that he should not have to and criticised Mrs Wright for making “no effort whatsoever to seek work” or retrain since the divorce in 2008.
Mrs Wright, who lives in the mortgage-free house (bought out of her share in the divorce) with her youngest daughter, aged 10, challenged this decision.  Her fight to stop her personal maintenance of £33,200 a year being slashed has just been rejected in the Court of Appeal, where the judge agreed that she had been “evasive on the subject of her own earning capacity” and had exaggerated her income needs.
The ruling is likely to have huge implications for existing and future divorce settlements, with the expectation that many wealthy divorced people will now go back to court to reduce or cancel their existing maintenance orders.  Therefore, ex-spouses who fear this should engage forensic accountants, who can help to show what levels of income the relevant family businesses should reasonably be expected to generate for divorcees and their former spouses.

Author: Roger Isaacs, 27 February 2015

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