This appeal considered the proper approach to applications to vary periodical payments orders made pursuant to the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, s 31(7) after the grant of a decree of divorce and in particular whether, provision having already been made for the wife’s housing costs in the capital settlement in the original consent order of 2002, the Court of Appeal were wrong in taking these into account when increasing the wife’s periodical payments under the joint lives spousal maintenance provision contained in the 2002 order.

The Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal, concluding that the judge was entitled to decline to vary the order for periodical payments so as to require the husband to pay all of the wife’s rental costs.

The Court held that the Court of Appeal should have considered the impact of the original capital payment on the wife’s current need to pay rent, and this involved a consideration of three earlier Court of Appeal authorities: Pearce v Pearce [2003] EWCA Civ 1054, North v North [2007] EWCA Civ 760, and Yates v Yates [2012] EWCA Civ 532. These cases were correctly decided and in light of this the judge was entitled, although not obliged, to decline to require the husband to fund payment of the rent in full. The Court concluded that these authorities respect the wide discretion conferred upon the court under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973,  s 31(1) and (7) in determining an application for variation of an order for periodical payments.

For judgment, please download: [2018] UKSC 38
For Court’s Press Summary, please download: Court’s Press Summary
For a non-PDF version of the judgment, please visit: BAILII

To watch the hearing, please visit: Supreme Court Website (6 Jun 2018 morning session) (6 Jun 2018 afternoon session)