The High Court has ruled in the case of a man who had applied for “a downward variation” in the maintenance he was paying to support his former wife and 12-year-old son.
The 65-year-old ex-husband, who is not named in the court papers relating to the case, had sought to have the maintenance he was paying either suspended or reduced to zero.
In the case of B v G, the court had heard that the couple had been married for 12 years prior to the relationship breaking down.
Over three years ago, a financial remedy order had been made, requiring the husband to pay maintenance of £5,417 a month, as well as contributing to his son’s school fees.
But following on from this agreement, the man had secured a £1.6million loan against the family assets to buy his ex-wife out of the marital home.
The interest on the loan added up to a rather onerous £64,000 a year and he had argued that the additional burden of keeping up with payments meant that he was struggling to abide by the terms of the original maintenance order.
It had been noted that the case was unusual in that, in contrast to most maintenance variation applications, the change in the man’s financial circumstances had been brought about by his own actions.
Ordinarily a case is brought to court when an individual suffers a fall in disposable income as a consequence of circumstances beyond their control, such as losing a well-paid job.
In a written judgment, Mr Justice Holman said: “It seems to me, in this difficult situation, that I cannot, as the husband seeks, suspend or reduce to zero any current liability to make periodical payments.
“If I were to do so, the wife would very rapidly exhaust all her remaining capital, which, frankly, would not be fair to her.
“On the other hand, I accept that, currently, the husband is squeezed because he has committed himself to very high interest payments in order to fund the accelerated payment of the £1.6 million, the benefit of which the wife now enjoys.”
It was ultimately decided that the maintenance payments would be reduced to £3,500 a month, with the man continuing to pay the school fees as agreed in the previous settlement.