A maintenance appeal hearing when an ex-wife was told to get a job is being seen as the signal for family courts to favour maintenance for a limited period and clamp down on ‘meal ticket divorces’.
Legal commentators have described the decision against awarding indefinite maintenance payments to Tracey Wright as a ‘game-changer’ for high value divorces – with the judge remarking that divorcees with children over the age of seven should expect to work for a living.
At Jones Myers we prefer to see a more measured approach where each case is assessed on its particular circumstances – rather than a hostile, ‘blanket approach’ to wealthy ex-wives. An arbitrary rule that compels all mothers of children over a certain age to find work is unhelpful, to say the least and other issues should be considered.
For example, a wife may have been out of the workplace for decades as she ran the home and looked after the family, leaving the husband to build a successful career – an arrangement that will have suited him very well. As a result, she may not have the skills, experience or qualifications to secure a high-salaried job that would replace a maintenance cut.
We should also bear in mind that transport and childcare logistics – coupled with costs for working parents – can be challenging enough for couples and especially difficult for somebody to deal with on their own.
Of course mothers should not automatically be able to use their children as a shield from having to work, but when you include additional factors – such as location, health, children’s needs and the disparity of earning power between men and women – it is impossible to apply a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution.
All this means that there are certainly still times when a joint lives order – a maintenance order where payments continue until the recipient remarries, one party dies or the court makes a new one – is appropriate.
The best route is always to try to reach collaborative agreement without going to court for a decision in the first place. Mediation, collaborative law and arbitration are far more positive ways to resolve family breakdown issues – allowing each party to better appreciate the other’s views and concerns.
Jones Myers has vast experience helping couples reach a constructive, lasting settlement to their differences, avoiding protracted arguments and promoting co-operation between them.
If you have any comments, queries or concerns on any divorce related issue, leave a comment below, call the Jones Myers team on 0113 246 0055 or tweet us on @helpwithdivorce.