Posted in Family Law
The recent Court of Appeal case of Aburn v Aburn  shed further light to the court’s approach in dealing with spousal maintenance (periodical payments) in ‘needs’ based divorce cases, as opposed to the ‘big money’ cases that have little in common with the average family.
In this case, the parties were married for over 20 years and had children aged 14 and 19. The husband was a GP earning approximately £83,000 pa. The wife was a nurse and midwife, and had not worked since the birth of their first child. Their home had equity of £500,000 and they had savings of £80,000. The husband was due to receive his share of his GP practice of £235,000 on retirement and had a substantial pension. The wife had no pension provision.
At the first hearing, the court made a maintenance order on a joint lives basis, basically maintenance for life for the wife. On later appeals, the term was limited, and maintenance payments were to cease upon the wife reaching statutory retirement age. The levels of maintenance should be determined ‘with reference to the principle of need alone’. There was an expectation that the wife should return to some form of paid work rather than being reliant upon the husband for payments for life.
The case highlights the growing trend for the family courts to impose term limited maintenance payments. It can be argued that this is a fairer approach being adopted by the courts, moving away from the general public’s perceived view of a‘meal ticket for life’ upon divorce and relationship breakdown.