At the weekend, I read a thought-provoking article in the Sunday Times written by Martin Daubney entitled “Divorced men doomed to life as a cash machine” which took a bleak view of ongoing support obligations. In support, he cited Ray Parlour’s wife getting an unprecedented ongoing settlement. That was in 2004 and rarely repeated since. As men tend to be the higher earners they are more often the payers of support. It was an odd point at which to come to his conclusion that men are ‘cash-machines’ in 2017.
Case law on spousal support is not like that – even going back to the 1980s and the beginning of my career in law. Particularly over the last few years, the trend that we have seen has been towards the expectation of independence.
Perhaps the problem lies in the manner in which such Orders are made. The norm has been to order support indefinitely and expect the situation to be brought back before the court for review. I recently advised about an order made over a decade before which was had no ‘expiry date’ and therein lies the problem – in circumstances where the ex-wife had cohabited with another man for years, had a subsequent child and had inherited considerable wealth and a business, it fell to the less affluent payer to get support terminated.
Judges rarely consider either the expense or the stress of court applications. Faced with expense and uncertainty, it is little wonder that men often endure the corrosive resentment of paying.
Payers should not be ‘cash-machines’ but it is a systemic problem not the fault of the spouses.
As a family law solicitor who also worked as a mediator, I discuss these issues of review both with the payer or the receiver.