The Supreme Court has recently ruled – in what has been widely touted as – the most important family law case of the year; Mills v Mills.
Mr and Mrs Mills divorced in 2002 after fifteen years of marriage and resolved their financial affairs through a consent order. Under the terms of the order, Mr Mills paid Mrs Mills a lump sum of £230,000 and maintenance payments of £1,100 per month during their joint lives. At the time of the divorce Mrs Mills was suffering from ill health, making it difficult for her to work and to obtain a mortgage. Mr Mills anticipated that she would use the £230,000 lump sum to purchase a house, mortgage free.
Mrs Mills did manage to get a mortgage which she used to purchase a property worth £345,000. Over the next decade she made a number of unwise property transactions with the amount of borrowing increasing with each new property she purchased and her capital pot steadily dwindled.
By April 2015 Mrs Mills had no capital, was living in rented accommodation, and had debts totalling £42,000 and so she applied for an increase in her maintenance to cover her rent. Mr Mills applied for his £1,100 a month payment to Mrs Mills to be either discharged or reduced.
The judge found that Mrs Mills needed an additional £341 per month to meet her needs and to be able to pay her rent. However he also noted that Mrs Mills’ current financial situation was largely of her own making, particularly in that she had to pay rent when she could have purchased a mortgage free house using her £230,000 lump sum. The judge decided that he would not vary the order upwards or downwards and instead preserved the status quo of Mr Mills paying £1,100 per month to Mrs Mills.
Mrs Mills appealed this decision to the Court of Appeal. The Court decided that the first judge had not given sufficient reasons why all of the Mrs Mills’ basic needs should not be met by Mr Mills and increased the periodic payments she received to £1,414 per month.