You would think that 25 years is a long enough time to settle all the arrangements surrounding a divorce wouldn’t you? After all, that is significantly longer than the original marriage is likely to have lasted and an awful lot of water will have passed under the bridge in a quarter of a century.
One couple in the news last week though demonstrated that they couldn’t quite put the past behind them and were facing each other across a court room. Perhaps not for the first time.
Philippa Vaughan and ex-husband David (QC) originally separated in 1981. They divorced in 1985 and Philippa was subsequently awarded £27,175-a-year maintenance. Fast forward to 2009 and Mr Vaughan, aged 71, successfully applied to the courts to have the payments cancelled due to his reduced income during retirement. A bid for a £560,000 lump sum from the original Mrs Vaughan was also thrown out.
However, last week the Court of Appeal overturned the decision, with Lord Justice Wilson saying it was “plainly wrong” to conclude that Mrs Vaughan could adjust to life without the financial support of her ex-husband.
According to reports, Mrs Vaughan lives in a £1million Georgian townhouse, inherited £770,000 from her parents, and owns an antique desk thought to be worth £300,000. Last week she was awarded a lump sum of £215,000.
What can we learn from this? That even QCs can get caught out by the law? That an ex-wife is entitled to indefinite financial support even if she has significant assets of her own and nearly 30 years have passed since they first split? That a spouse is for life? That the appeal process works/doesn’t work?
What I feel this demonstrates rather beautifully is how important it is to ensure the money issues on divorce are clearly and finally dealt with. Leaving anything to chance can come back to bite you. An experienced family law expert can save a lot of financial heartache further down the line – whether that is one year or 25 years later.
And it shows that a court ruling made many years ago still carries weight.