The judgments, delivered yesterday, considered two divorce cases involving super-rich husbands and set down new principles for the fair division of a married couple’s assets. They are expected to trigger more claims from wives who still receive maintenance payments from their husbands but feel they have not been properly compensated for giving up lucrative careers.
Julia McFarlane, who was married to a senior tax partner at Deloittes earning more than £750,000 a year, was awarded £250,000 a year for life, not just for the five years decided by the Court of Appeal. In the second appeal, the law lords decided that Melissa Miller was entitled to keep the £5m awarded out of her ex-husband Alan’s £17.5m fortune.
Mrs McFarlane said she gave up a high-earning career when she married 18 years earlier. Her lawyer, James Pirrie, described the judgment as “ground-breaking” and said: “Until today, maintenance for stay-at-home mothers was going to be based purely on living expenses. Now judges must consider, as well, contribution and compensation. For people like Julia, this is only fair.”
The judgment takes account of Mrs McFarlane’s sacrifice and recognises that marriage should regarded as a partnership. She had come to a joint decision with her husband, Kenneth, to give up her career to raise their children, which enabled him to increase his earning power.