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Clare, Family Solicitor
Category: UK Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 34105
Experience:  25 years experience of all aspects of family law
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Hi my partners estranged wife is trying to get him to pay

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Hi my partner's estranged wife is trying to get him to pay spousal maintenance for life (joint lives maintenance) but we cannot see how it is possible.

It is a very complicated divorce so I'll try and summarise as best I can.

Wife is bipolar and schizophrenic, aged 48. Has never really worked, not for long anyway. Was in denial about her mental illness until finally being diagnosed in 2011.

Husband is working full time and earns circa 50k per annum.

They married in 2000 and legally seperated in 2008.

Husband also has custody of the only child from the marriage, a now 9 year daughter, who sees her mother every three weeks and for half of the school holidays. Child came to live with husband in 2010.

Husband now lives with his daughter, partner (me) and their son, born in 2010. His partner does not work and looks after both children.

There are no assets from the marriage, just a 40k debt after repossession of the former marital home. The husband also owes circa 50k in taxes although he is waiting for the divorce to be finalised before declaring it.

The wife invested the most money at the start of the marriage, around 100k realised from her ex council property in equity during the property boom. The couple used this money to build their own home. By the time they split (she left him, over something trivial) and she agreed to selling the house, the property was in negative equity, hence why there are no assets, apart from my partner's future ability to work and earn. She refused to vacate the property and would not agree to the property being rented out as a whole, claiming she needed to be able to stay there when seeing her daughter every few weeks. She had , and still has another council property in London that she lives in currently.

The wife is claiming that her estranged husband is her only source of support as she cannot work (this is supported by a letter from her GP). She has an estranged mother, and a 26 year old son. Should she not seek support from her own family first? I don't wish to sound mean, I don't know how it all works.

The only claim she could make would be on his ongoing earnings, but he has a family of 4 to support and is not exactly loaded. Whilst I think it's really sad the wife is mentally ill, I also find it hard to believe that my partner has to pay the price for this.

She was 36 when they married, was living on benefits, earning the occasional cheque from other work such as art or acting. She certainly did not give up a good career to get married and have a child with my partner, and it was not a long marriage.

Can you help? Sorry if I gave waffled on but it's such a complicated situation.
Thank you for your question
I shall do my best to assist you but I need some further information first.
What income does she receive from benefits?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Well according to her bank statements up to July 2012 (currently awaiting updated ones) she earns £5,922.80 net per annum (£119.85 per week) in incapacity benefit.

She has also never stopped claiming child benefit nor working child tax credit for their child despite her living with us the majority of the time. My partner does not mind her doing this as he doesn't want an argument. Plus I'm not sure he could claim it anyway with his tax problems at the mo.

The child benefit at £239.06 every 4 weeks brings her in an extra £3107.78 net per annum. The working tax credit brings in another £81.20 every 4 weeks, making a net sum of £1055.60 per annum. Added together, these child related benefits being her in an extra £4,163.38.

So in total, she has earned £10,086.18 net per annum.
Does she have a shortfall between her income and outgoings?
Has your partner been paying anything until now?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
As far as I am aware there is not a shortfall but will double check this point. She may claim there is a shortfall due to the fact she has a repayment plan with RBS on a joint bank account she had with my partner. She ran up a 3k overdraft entirely herself shortly after the separation, presumably during one of her episodes. She repays 110 per month, but this would be more than covered by the child related be edits she is receiving.As for whether my partner has been anything up until now, the answer is yes but not anymore apart from spending money when his daughter stays with her mother. Purely because he has custody of the child and has never heard of spousal support apart from in high value divorces. His solicitor never mentioned this to him as a possibility.Instead, my partner naively signed a 2 year separation agreement immediately after the separation (aug 2008) agreeing to pay the mortgage of 1k plus all bills, plus 1000 maintenance, plus 500 rent on her council flat in London. Essentially he continued to pay what he had already been paying within the marriage. He fulfilled this obligation for nearly two years, but the wife wanted the husband to look after the child while she moved to London, and in any event certain things happened and the police recommended my partner keep custody of the child. This was three months shy of the end of the separation, so the husband stopped the maintenance payments as he was struggling so much himself (remember he was giving his estranged wife 3k per month when his earnings only amounted to £3-4k). He continued to pay the mortgage and bills for the entirety of the 2 year separation agreement, and even continued to pay the mortgage until it was repossessed last year, some 4 years post separation. My partner would have happily rented out the place to protect her investment, to wait for house prices to rise again, but the wife would not move out. My partner knew it was unfeasable to let her lodge there with another person , due to her undiagnosed illness at the time, so it eventually lead to repossession in jan 2013 - so he paid the 1k per month some 4.5 years post separation. He is now being vilified in court for 'taking everything' from her.
However unfair the combination of the substantial difference in their incomes and the fact of her illness makes ongoing spousal maintenance a very real possibility and one which a Court is likely to grant.
However the fact that she is receiving the Child Benefit and Child Tax credits (which would be of no use to your partner given his level of income) will go some way to reducing the level of any possible liability.
It is hard to assess what the actual risk is as Spouse maintenance is based on Reasonable needs as against income and on that basis if at present there is no shortfall then a nominal order is likely to be made
I hope that this is of assistance - please ask if you need further details
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thanks. Would you mind explaining what you mean by a nominal order please? Also I forgot to add that she is suggesting 1k per month for life, at least 25% of his earnings - is it likely he will have to pay anywhere near that sum?? Seems extortionate to me. I would think that 100-200 per month would be fairer. I know you cannot be exact but just a rough idea would be appreciated.
Nominal means small - maybe a £1 a year to keep the option open.
The figures quoted are excessive and are not likely to find favour with the court bearing in mind that the only child of the family lives with you.
The figure you quoted is more realistic - but you need to look at her income and reasonable expenditure to get a real guide
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thank you you've been so helpful. An I allowed to come back to you if I think of any other questions within a certain timeframe at all?
Come back with a follow up on this whenever you like - with a new query just use my name in the title and someone will let me know
Clare and 2 other UK Family Law Specialists are ready to help you

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