Don’t let your divorce end up before the Supreme Court

Divorce is a hot topic at the moment with two cases having recently ended up before the Supreme Court because the couples involved could not sort out their differences amicably.  The first case, Mills v Mills, concerned an application by a wife to increase the maintenance element of her settlement following divorce when she fell on hard times. The second, Owens v Owens, concerned a wife’s application to divorce her husband because of his unreasonable behaviour which he denied he had been bad enough to justify this. 

Commenting on the cases, Michelle Uppal, family law solicitor at Miles & Partners Solicitors in London explains:

‘While it is unusual for cases concerning divorce to end up before the highest court in the UK, it is sadly not uncommon for disputes about divorce to arise and for the family courts to be asked to intervene in some way.  To reduce the potential for conflict, we as a firm work hard to help divorcing couples avoid reaching crisis point and to instead work together to find acceptable solutions to any issues between them.’

‘We are a member of Resolution, an organisation committed to the non-confrontational resolution of divorce and other family law matters, and all our family lawyers adopt a collaborative law approach to ensure that you remain in control of the divorce process and reach agreement on financially sensible and workable terms.’ 

In Mills v Mills the Supreme Court confirmed that where you reach a financial settlement in your divorce which should be sufficient to meet your ongoing needs, a court will require very good reasons to justify interfering with that arrangement. 

In this case the court said that it would not be appropriate to order Mr Mills to pay Mrs Mills more (money) monthly maintenance when the financial settlement she had received at the time of her divorce was more than adequate to meet her needs, and the reason she was now finding it hard to cope was because of her own failure to manage that money properly and to make wise investment decisions. 

In Owens v Owens the Supreme Court decided that Mrs Owens was not entitled to an immediate divorce on the grounds of her husband’s unreasonable behaviour, despite her having felt compelled to move out of the family home because of the way she had been treated.

Among the allegations she made, Mrs Owens claimed that her husband continually put his work before her, failed to show her an appropriate level of love and affection, made disparaging remarks about her and her family and suffered from mood swings which were the cause of regular arguments.

Upholding an earlier court decision that found the evidence offered in support of her divorce petition to be “flimsy and exaggerated”, the court made it clear that unless Mr Owens could be convinced to change his mind and agree to the divorce, Mrs Owens would have to wait until 2020 before she would become entitled to divorce him without his consent. 

As Michelle observes:

“The couples in these cases were forced to take their divorce issues to the Supreme Court because it was the only way to get a definitive decision over the rights and wrongs of the matters in dispute.  However, in most cases, the need for court intervention can be avoided where early legal advice is sought so you and your former spouse are supported to make fair and appropriate arrangements.” 

If you require advice on any aspect of your divorce or relationship breakdown, please contact Michelle Uppal on 0207 426 0400 or email MU@milesandpartners.com.

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only.  They do not constitute legal advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published and readers should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.