Lodders partner and head of Family Law, Beverley Morris, explains the case of Mills v Mills. As of the 8th August 2017 permission for appeal was granted by the Supreme Court.
I represent the Husband in this case, Graham Owen Mills. The facts of the case are already within the public domain given the determination by the Court of Appeal Civil Division (England & Wales), which is a reported decision.
The Supreme Court, on the 8th August 2017, granted permission to Mr Mills to appeal, from the Court of Appeal, on a single ground: whether provision having already been made for the Wife’s housing costs in the capital settlement, the Court of Appeal erred in taking these into account when raising periodical payments.
A hearing date has yet to be scheduled but the case does, of course, have important implications in the proper approach to applications for maintenance (referred to as periodical payments) pursuant to the provisions of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, after the granting of a decree of divorce.
In short, the facts are as follows:-
The parties married back in 1987 and separated after 15 years of marriage. They subsequently divorced. Under the provisions of the financial Order agreed between them, the Husband conceded the bulk of the capital to the Wife to enable her to rehouse herself and the parties’ child on a mortgage-free basis. In addition, the Husband agreed to maintain the Wife at a level of £13,200 per annum, and the Husband also made child maintenance and school fees payments.
The matter came back before the Circuit Judge in the Family Court in London in June 2015. Before the Court were cross applications – the Husband’s application seeking to discharge or reduce the maintenance element of the Order and the Wife’s cross application seeking an upward variation. The Husband’s case included issues concerning the Wife’s management of funds and her ability to increase her earning capacity and/or meet need from her own earning capacity. His Honour Judge Everall dismissed both applications.
Both parties sought permission to appeal the decision.
The Court of Appeal assessed the Wife’s needs and determined that the Husband should have to pay more as the Wife was unable to meet her basic needs.
A central argument in the Husband’s case is that, having made provision for the Wife’s housing fund when the parties first divorced, the Wife had a responsibility to utilise those funds in the manner anticipated by the Court – the provision of mortgage-free housing for herself and the parties’ son. If the Wife had exhausted her entire capital fund by virtue of choices that she made, then any increase of periodical payments to include rent is wrong as that is not a need that has been generated by this marriage and/or by this Husband.
Essentially the case will look at the responsibility of the parties and the obligations placed upon them to transition towards independence. It is argued on behalf of Mr Mills that he has done all that can be expected of him to move on with his life post divorce, to take responsibility and to be financially prudent. It is argued that the same cannot be said of the Wife and if she has eroded her capital position, it should not form a responsibility that falls, once again, on the shoulders of the Husband, years after the parties have divorced, to meet that ongoing need.
UPDATE – June 2018: This case has now been heard in the Supreme Court, and an update can be viewed here.
For help or advice please contact Beverley Morris on 0121 200 0890 or drop her an email.