Periodic payments – divorce costs

When a financial order is made, the judge specifies how and when divorce costs or payments should be made from one party to the other. Often, periodic payments are ordered, to give the recipient a regular income; this can be particularly important if the recipient hasn’t been in work for a number of years and may need time to get a job and establish a regular income.

However, depending on the circumstances, sometimes the court will order a smaller number of more substantial payments to be made instead. In the case of Grocholewska-Mullins v Mullins [2014] EWCA civ 148 the wife had been receiving monthly maintenance payments since 2006. The award had been varied downwards because she began cohabiting with a new partner in 2011. That had subsequently been varied back up, but alongside this change, the judge ruled that instead of monthly payments, the amount owed should be paid in three instalments over two years, with the largest payment at the end of that time. This was to allow the husband time and opportunity to get enough capital, which he was going to do by selling his business.

The wife appealed the judge’s decision to make this change because she said she needed a more regular flow of income. She proposed that a single large payment plus six regular instalments of just over £3,750 were paid instead of waiting for the bulk of her entitlement.

The Appeal Court noted that the wife had had a significant amount of time to ‘acclimatise herself to financially independence’, and the husband could not afford to pay any more until the sale of his business had been concluded. However, the appeal was still successful, as the husband had made an offer before the appeal hearing to pay a regular interim payment of £1,000 per month until the final payment of the capitalised award was due (with that sum being reduced accordingly). This allowed for an acceptable compromise.

Issues with periodic payments can arise many years after the original order is made; your circumstances and needs change, as do those of your ex-spouse. If you would like to discuss the financial arrangements that you currently have, or if you need legal advice on any other aspect of your divorce do not hesitate to contact us.