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“Working 9 – 5” The ONLY way to make a living?

In a landmark ruling the former wife of a leading equine surgeon has been told she will not be ‘supported for life’ by her ex-husband following their 2008 divorce.

Mrs Wright was seeking to overrule a High Court judgment which would put an end to her yearly maintenance award of £75,000 but was instead informed that she had no right to be supported indefinitely by her ex-husband and that she should get a job.

Ruling on Mrs Wright’s appeal at the Royal Courts of Justice, Lord Justice Pitchford agreed with the view of High Court Judge Lynn Roberts and confirmed that most mothers are now expected to find work to support themselves and their children, and in doing so they set a good example for their children.

Following their divorce in 2008 the couple were ordered to sell their seven bedroom property in Suffolk and split the proceeds. This allowed Mrs Wright, a former legal secretary and riding instructor, to purchase a £450,000 property mortgage free with enough land to stable her horses and her daughter’s ponies. She was also awarded £75,000 a year for spousal maintenance and school fees of which £33,200 was for her personal upkeep.

Last year Mr Wright took the matter before the Courts to try and reduce the amount of maintenance he was ordered to pay. Mr Wright claimed it was unfair to expect him to support his ex-wife indefinitely, particularly in the lead up to his retirement, while she made no effort whatsoever to seek work.

Criticising Mrs Wright as being ‘evasive’ in respect of her earning capacity, Judge Roberts informed Mrs Wright that she ought to ‘just get on with it’ and find a job like the vast number of other women with children. Further, Judge Roberts found that there was no good reason why Mrs Wright had not done paid work since the divorce and ordered that the payments cease, with a 5 year tailing off period.

Her view was upheld by LJ Pitchford who further commented that it was imperative Mrs Wright find work in order to support herself.

This case sends a strong message to those who consider an award of maintenance in big-money divorces as a meal ticket for life. In the future this decision may well lead to more use of fixed term maintenance orders with the intention that the recipient can use that time to find work or retrain if need be rather than orders which simply continue indefinitely unless varied by the Court or the recipient remarries.

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Paul Lancaster

Family Law
0113 227 9285
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Paul Lancaster Blacks Solicitors LLP