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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.