End of the line for ‘meal tickets for life’?

A High Court Judge has ruled that spousal maintenance payments should not be relied upon as a meal ticket for life. On Wednesday, Lord Justice Moylan decided to vary the Order which granted Kim Waggott, ex-wife of multi-millionaire accountant William Waggott, annual lifetime spousal maintenance of £175,000.

The ruling comes after Mrs Waggott claimed the maintenance package agreed was not sufficient, asking for an additional £23,000 annually. Mr Waggot claimed that the decision with regards to maintenance made during the parties’ divorce in 2014 had been wrong, claiming it gave his ex-wife no incentive to support herself, and requesting that the maintenance payments end in two years’ time.

Lord Justice Moylan commented that it was clear that Mrs Waggott would be able to adjust without undue hardship upon the termination of maintenance, suggesting that she could invest part of the lump sum of 9.76m she received in the divorce settlement. Additionally, she could seek employment to fill the gap left by the spousal maintenance.

Lord Justice Moylan stated, “The expression ‘meal ticket for life’ can be used as an unfair trope. I, of course, acknowledge that long-term maintenance can be required as part of a fair outcome (in a divorce)”. However, he went on to add that extending the sharing principle beyond divorce can at times undermine the court’s ability to affect a clean break.

Whilst this case is exceptional in terms of the sums of money involved, the principle remains the same – no one should reasonably be expected to be the sole provider for their ex-spouse. Upon divorce, where one party is able to generate their own income and meet their needs, spousal maintenance may not be a fair settlement for the other party.

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