Jane Mitchell, a partner in Penningtons Manches Cooper’s highly rated family law team, has on behalf of her client Emma Villiers successfully appealed a 2021 High Court decision that ordered her husband should not be required to pay her maintenance.
The application was made under a relatively little-used provision (section 27 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973), which allows one spouse to seek payment from the other when they have failed reasonably to maintain them.
The decision follows separate proceedings as to the question of jurisdiction for the maintenance claim, which reached the Supreme Court in 2020, where Penningtons Manches Cooper successfully argued that the claim was validly pursued in England, notwithstanding the fact that there are ongoing divorce proceedings in Scotland, a separate jurisdiction.
Today’s judgment means that the Court of Appeal has made a maintenance order in Mrs Villiers’ favour and has made clear that, contrary to the decision in the High Court, when considering such applications the court is not restricted to looking at the position solely before the application was made, and nor is it restricted to making an order only for as long as the marriage endures.
Commenting on the decision, Jane Mitchell said: “We are very pleased with today’s judgment, which is significant not only for our client: their Lordships’ findings are likely to also be of great importance to those financially weaker spouses who may need to pursue such an application.”
Emma Villiers commented: “I am very pleased that the Court of Appeal’s judgement founded in my favour and that this important judgment will help many vulnerable parties going forward. My grateful thanks goes to my lawyer Jane Mitchell, who has been stalwart throughout the last nine years of litigation, as well as my two barristers, Phillip Cayford QC and Simon Calhaem of 29 Bedford Row, both of whom have been utterly brilliant.”