Interim Maintenance Provision in lockdown - amongst other things ...

The recent High Court case of R v R [2021] EWHC 195 (Fam) serves as a reminder that both parties to a marriage can seek spousal maintenance - many parties assume that only the Wife can seek maintenance provision. The case also provides a helpful reminder however that all maintenance claims need to be based in reality.

Can you claim interim provision is needed to cover expenditure on eating out, theatre trips, going to the cinema, concerts and holidays when - due to lockdown - at the present time, no one can participate in any of those activities? Whilst the Husband thought he could, Deputy High Court Judge Nicholas Cusworth QC considered the issue and in his view, the answer was No.

The Husband sought £21,703.50 per month to meet his living expenses which included all of the activities that none of us can participate in at the present time. This was in addition to a £23,000 per month allowance that the Husband was seeking in relation to rental accommodation. The Wife had offered the Husband £5,500 per month all in.

Judge Cusworth eventually awarded the Husband the sum of £9,000 per month in relation to his expenditure on the basis that money not expended during lockdown would accumulate and be available to supplement post-lockdown expenditure. In addition, Judge Cusworth ordered a rental allowance for the Husband of £11,000 per month. In total, therefore, the interim provision to be provided by the Wife to the Husband was £20,000 per month compared with the £44,703.50 he was seeking and the £5,500 per month the Wife had been willing to agree.

The Judge then turned his mind to the level of a legal services provision order that should be awarded to the Husband. To date some £1.3 million had been incurred by the parties in legal costs.

A legal services provision order can be sought when a party has explored all other avenues of legal fees funding but been unsuccessful. The aim is to provide a level playing field for both parties to have access to legal advice.

In this case the Wife had offered to pay the Husband £682,000 to cover his legal fees - such offer being put forward on the basis that an extendable Legal Charge would be placed on the family home in the sum of £1.5 million to cover both parties’ legal costs to date. The Judge was concerned that the Wife’s proposed approach would diminish the value of capital assets in the UK which would then be available for distribution between the parties.

Ultimately Judge Cusworth ordered the Wife to pay the Husband £200,000 which was roughly equivalent to 50% of the Husband’s current solicitor’s bills, plus an ongoing amount of £150,000 per month from February until June 2021 (£750,000 in total). Judge Cusworth considered that the Husband’s costs in relation to his first solicitor was a matter for the Husband to resolve; he did however comment that given the complexity of the issues in the case, the overall costs of both parties was reasonable.

The case is next before the Court in June to deal with jurisdiction. Based on the costs award it seems likely that by then, the parties’ costs will be in the region of £3 million. Perhaps by June the lockdown restrictions will have eased a little enabling both parties the opportunity to participate in activities that make all our lives more enjoyable. This in itself may help them reflect and identify a way forward that is mutually beneficial thus bringing to an end their costly dispute, and only time will tell ...

Posted on: 16/02/2021

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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