England: ex-husband forced to support wife 15 years after divorce because she spent cash

sln1A divorced wife who took almost all of the available cash when her marriage ended 15 years ago has won an order mandating that her husband must support her for life because she has spent all the money.

Maria Mills, 51, won £230,000 in addition to £1,100 in monthly maintenance payments after she split with Graham, 50, following 13 years of marriage in 2002.

But she made some poor investments in London properties in an attempt to climb the housing ladder – losing all her money and becoming heavily indebted.

Judges in the Court of Appeal have now ordered that her payouts be increased to £1,441 and have told Mr Mills that he must support her for the rest of her life because she cannot meet her basic needs.

Mr Mills argued he should not be made to insure his ex-wife’s bad financial decisions and be forced to “pick up the tab” 15 years after their marriage came to an end.

Philip Cayford QC, for Mr Mills, called for reform of the law to limit maintenance payments.

He said: “This is a paradigm case for reform of the law.

“How can a woman in this situation after 15 years expect now to be maintained for the next 50?”

In Scots law, the limit on maintenance is three years.

Mark Harper, family partner with Hughes Fowler Carruthers, said: “The moral of this case is that it pays to terminate spouse maintenance whenever possible. Under current law, if a wife falls on hard times, the former husband paying spouse maintenance remains a form of insurance policy, assuming he has money to spare.”

Ms Mills moved from a house in Surrey, to an apartment in Wimbledon and from there to a two-bedroom flat in a Victorian mansion block in Battersea.

However, she borrowed too much each time and her mortgage liabilities piled up. She was unable to satisfy them with the sales of the properties.

She now rents a property in Weybridge and works as a beauty therapist.

Mr Mills lives in Guilford with a news wife and family.

Mr Cayford added: “It is wrong in principle and in law that the wife should continue to depend, and indeed seek to increase, her dependence on the husband.”