‘Meal ticket’ divorce ruling signifies change in maintenance

A high-profile divorce ruling scrapping future payments signifies a sea change in how courts regard maintenance, according to a leading family lawyer.

As reported by the Law Gazette, in the case dubbed the ‘meal ticket for life’, the Court of Appeal ruled that maintenance payments for Kim Waggott from her ex-husband should end after three years.

The 49-year-old had been awarded a settlement of £9.76m and £175,000 in annual maintenance payments for life, after she was divorced from her multimillionaire husband William in 2012.

She had asked the court to approve an increase in annual payments, but he challenged the original award.

The Law Gazette stated, sitting in the appeal court, Lord Justice Moylan said Mrs Waggott could make up the shortfall from losing her annual payments by investing around 10% of her initial payment and using the interest. Moylan ruled that payments should stop from March 2021.

The judge added, ‘Any extension of the sharing principle to post separation earnings would fundamentally undermine the court’s ability to effect a clean break.’

Henry Hood, head of the family department and partner at London firm Hunters Solicitors, said the judgment is likely to be seen as the most significant indication yet that the law relating to spousal maintenance is less generous than before.

‘There had been a distinct division amongst the judges dealing with these matters, and Moylan LJ was seen as the standard bearer for the more generous approach,’ said Hood. ‘His judgment may therefore have confirmed a more limited approach to maintenance, both as to amount and duration, than was the case a few years ago.’

The lawyer also suggested the judgment may produce a consistent approach across the country, and end the situation where maintenance orders standard in some parts of the country are unobtainable in other areas.

It has been reported that Mrs Waggott now faces a ‘significant’ legal bill following the judgment.