Builder Dennis North had a considerable shock earlier this year when the court ordered him to pay his ex-wife, Jean, whom he divorced in 1978, over £200,000 in financial support.
Mrs North had no source of income other than her settlement from her ex-husband, which included their matrimonial home and tenanted properties. She had not had any paid employment since the couple’s split. She decided to emigrate to Australia and so sold all her assets in the UK before moving to an affluent suburb of Sydney. However, her stay in the Antipodes was not a happy one. Her lifestyle and bad investments conspired to reduce her circumstances considerably and she subsequently returned to the UK. She then went to court seeking additional funds from Mr North and found the judge sympathetic. Despite agreeing that Mr North had no responsibility for his wife’s reduced circumstances, she was awarded £202,000 – more than 25 years after the original settlement.
Mr North appealed to the Court of which agreed that the award was unjustifiably large. Lord Justice Thorpe commented that, “the prodigal former wife cannot hope to turn to a former husband in pursuit of a legal remedy.”
Interestingly, however, the Court concluded that a settlement of a lesser amount was appropriate and later an order was made that she should be awarded £3,000 per annum from her ex-husband during their joint lives.