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The Money and Divorce blog is brought to you by Intelligent Divorce, the new way to get fixed-fee specialist legal advice on splitting your money when you divorce.

Our blog provides illustrated practical guides for those going through the divorce process, plus news on divorce, money and family breakdown.

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17 April 2018

'Meal ticket for life' bid backfires as divorcee loses £175,000 a year from ex-husband

An attempt by a divorcee to have a “meal ticket for life” backfired after a High Court Judge ruled her maintenance payments should cease after just three years, reports The Telegraph.

Kim Waggott, 49, had been awarded a settlement of £9.76m and £175,000 in annual maintenance payments for the rest of her life when she split from her multimillionaire husband William in 2012, after Mr Waggott twice had affairs.

Unhappy with the deal she went back to court and asked for a £23,000 a year increase in the annual maintenance payments.

But Mr Waggott, 54, has now successfully challenged the original award, leaving his former wife with a fraction of what she wanted.

Lord Justice Moylan, at London's Appeal Court, on Wednesday ordered the £175,000 a year maintenance payments to stop in three years' time rather than continuing till their deaths, granting Mr Waggott a "clean break" from his former wife.

He said that Mrs Waggott, the former finance controller of UCI cinemas, will not suffer "undue hardship" - and can always get a job if she needs more money.

Mr Waggott, the finance director of TUI travel, had protested that the ruling made by a divorce judge in 2014 was wrong and meant his wife had "no financial incentive" to get back to work and stop living off him.

Lord Justice Moylan, sitting with Sir James Munby and Mr Justice MacDonald, heard that the couple, who were married for 21 years and had one daughter, lived in a "very substantial" £4.3m property near Great Missenden, Bucks, before splitting in 2012.

The Court of Appeal was told that following their divorce Mrs Waggott used her £9.76m share of the "fruits" of the marriage to buy a £2m home near Chester and a holiday home in the Balearics, while Mr Waggott moved into a £1.9m farm near St Albans "with another lady”.

Nigel Dyer QC, for Mr Waggott, argued that the maintenance order should be ended in two years' time and that Mrs Waggott should get back to work and start supporting herself.

"How long should an order based on sharing last for? When does the meter stop ticking?" he asked the judges. "It is unfair to expect the husband to continue working long hours in demanding employment and not expect the wife to realise her earning potential as soon as is reasonably practicable.”

Mrs Waggott claimed the maintenance package was not generous enough and her barrister, James Turner QC, asked for her payments to be increased by £23,000 a year.

Rejecting her claim and allowing the husband's appeal, Lord Justice Moylan said: "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.)

"But it is plain to me that the wife would be able to adjust without undue hardship to the termination of maintenance.”

Lord Justice Moylan said that the wife would be able to make up the "shortfall" created by the loss of the maintenance payments by investing £950,000 - roughly 10% -  of her huge payout and live off the interest.

He said that if the money produced by the investment was not enough to meet her financial needs, "the wife would be able to obtain employment" from next year.

Lord Justice Moylan added: “Any extension of the sharing principle to post separation earnings would fundamentally undermine the court's ability to effect a clean break.”

Following her court defeat Mrs Waggott also now faces a significant legal bill.

28 March 2018

Take the blame out of divorce says top judge

No-fault divorce should be introduced to help women who are "trapped in a loveless marriage", Britain's top family judge has suggested, reports The Telegraph.

In a speech on Tuesday Sir James Munby backed calls for a reform of marriage law by referring to a controversial case which has forced a woman to stay married to a man she wishes to divorce.

The case, Owens v Owens, is currently being considered by the Supreme Court, and was overseen by Sir James in the Court of Appeal last year.

Currently couples who wish to split must cite a reason that the marriage is unviable, such as unreasonable behaviour or adultery on the part of one party.

Mrs Owens was unable to divorce her husband because she could not prove that his behaviour had been sufficiently unreasonable.

Sir James told an audience at the Law School, University of Edinburgh, that he had been unable to grant Mrs Owens a divorce because while she, "with some justification, considered herself trapped in a loveless marriage, had failed to establish any ‘ground’ upon which she was entitled to a decree; specifically because, to use the convenient short-hand expression, she had failed to establish ‘unreasonable behaviour’ on the part of her husband."

The law is "very badly in need of reform", he said.

Sir James, in his judgment on the case in the Court of Appeal last year, said that "the law which the judges have to apply and the procedures which they have to follow are based on hypocrisy and lack of intellectual honesty".

The senior judge is the latest to back a change in the law. Last year Baroness Hale of Richmond, the President of the Supreme Court, also said blame should be removed from the divorce process.

Sir James also said the lack of legal recognition for cohabitees was "an injustice which has been recognised almost as long as I have been in the law".

He added: "How many more women are to be condemned to injustice while our masters delay, constantly persuading themselves, presumably, that the time is not yet ripe?"

6 February 2018

Pilot scheme testing online divorce applications expands

The government has announced it is piloting a fully online divorce application process across England and Wales which it hopes will make the process less stressful for families, reports The Law Society Gazette.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service initially piloted a scheme last year which enabled people to apply for a divorce online, print off the form and send it to court. The service is now being extended so that people can submit a form, send relevant documents and make payments. In the first week HMCTS received 130 online applications. (If your divorce is being managed free of charge ass part of Intelligent Divorce's co-operative service, then as much as is currently possible will be done online.) 

Susan Acland-Hood, HMCTS chief executive, said: 'These measures are drastically cutting the number of applications returned because of errors - streamlining the process and ensuring we are best supporting people going through a difficult and often painful time.'

HMCTS claims it has received positive feedback from users. The next stage will enable legal representatives to use the system.

The pilot is part of the government's £1bn plans to modernise the justice system. More than 3,000 fare dodgers have already been sentenced through a paperless operation at Lavender Hill Magistrates' Court in London. Transport for London no longer has to manually process and physically deliver case papers to the court. Instead, prosecution evidence is electronically transferred directly to the court. The cases are then considered by a magistrate and legal adviser on a laptop. People can also submit tax appeals online, which has significantly cut the number of incomplete or inaccurate forms being returned.