My ex has cut me off during divorce6 May 2022 | Lisa Pepper
Can my spouse cut me off financially?
Unfortunately, it is far too common that when a client says it’s over, their spouse with the “purse strings” cuts them off financially. This may mean cutting payments to a joint or sole account or refusing to pay the mortgage or school fees.
Leading London divorce lawyer, Lisa Pepper, looks at two recent cases and the guidance provided by the Judges.
First, to clarify some definitions:
Maintenance Pending Suit
A maintenance pending suit is a maintenance order the court can make once a divorce has started (but not concluded).
A pending suit means a pending conditional order on divorce (what was Decree Absolute).
Intermin maintenance is where the court also orders (as is the norm) that maintenance continues beyond the Suit i.e. even if the court pronounces conditional order/Decree Absolute. In this way the maintenance continues until a financial settlement is reached and implemented – such settlement being recorded in a Financial Remedy Order by the Court. Maintenance is also frequently referred to as periodical payments. They are paid monthly, and any arrears are usually paid in a lump sum.
Two recent cases, one of the Court of Appeal (Rattan v Kuwad), and one of the Family High Court (Baker v Baker), have provided helpful guidance on these Court Applications.
Rattan v Kuwad
In Rattan v Kuwad, Lord Justice Moylan made the point that the order must be reasonable. This equates to fairness. The key factors are the parties’ needs and resources; and the marital standard of living, although with regards to the latter, it is accepted that in most cases the marital standard of living may not be able to be maintained for both spouses and child maintenance. It is designed to address short-term cash-flow problems and has been described as “rough and ready” in case law. LJ Moylan said the following principles apply:
(i) The sole criterion to be applied in determining the application is ‘reasonableness’ (s.22 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973), which, to my mind, is synonymous with ‘fairness’.
(ii) A very important factor in determining fairness is the marital standard of living (F v F). This is not to say that the exercise is merely to replicate that standard (M v M).
(iii) In every maintenance pending suit application there should be a specific maintenance pending suit budget which excludes capital or long-term expenditure, more aptly to be considered on a final hearing (F v F). That budget should be examined critically in every case to exclude forensic exaggeration (F v F).
(iv) Where the affidavit or Form E disclosure by the payer is obviously deficient, the court should not hesitate to make robust assumptions about his ability to pay. The court is not confined to the mere say-so of the payer as to the extent of his income or resources (G v G, M v M). In such a situation, the court should err in favour of the payee.
(v) Where the paying party has historically been supported through the bounty of an outsider, and where the payer is asserting that the bounty had been curtailed, but where the position of the outsider is ambiguous or unclear, then the court is justified in assuming that the third party will continue to supply the bounty, at least until final trial (M v M).”
LJ Moylan went on to make some further interesting points:
- Items of expenditure that are not incurred every month do not necessarily have to be excluded for the purpose of determining what maintenance is reasonable; and
- School fees can be included.
Turning to Baker v Baker, Mr Justice Mostyn decided that the husband had some “serious questions” to answer with regards to his financial disclosure, and ordered that the husband’s Replies to Questionnaire be exhibited to an affidavit and sworn to be true; “in this way, the husband will know that if it is subsequently shown that he has deliberately given false answers, then he will potentially face a charge or perjury for which the maximum sanction is seven years’ imprisonment, in contrast to the maximum sanction for making a false declaration of truth on an answer to a Questionnaire, which is a mere two years’ imprisonment for contempt of court.”
Mr Justice Mostyn rejected the applicant’s wife’s argument that the parties separation agreement bolsters the wife’s claim for maintenance pending suit and distinguished this case from his earlier decision in BN v MA . Mostyn J said here, “..it would be quite wrong of me to afford any kind of recognition, explicit or implicit, to the separation agreement which the wife has not chosen to enforce for six years, in advance of the final hearing. It would be wrong for any kind of pre-judgment or pre-recognition of that agreement to be afforded in these interim proceedings. In my judgment, the maintenance pending suit application should be dealt with entirely conventionally.”
The wife also argued that she should be allowed to “roll up” her rental and investment income because she was very worried about whether the overall outcome of the case would result in the husband paying off the mortgage on her home. Mr Justice Mostyn rejected that argument: “In effect, it asks me to speculate that were I to award a lump sum in the wife’s favour to redeem the mortgage I would be unable to enforce it. I am not prepared to engage in such speculations as to the effectiveness of my enforcement powers. In my judgment, the wife’s income is what it is, and it is to be treated as being available fully to meet her current needs.” He did however accept the reasonableness of the wife’s budget (being $409,836 pa) and taking into account her income and some accepted deductions (e.g. management fees, mortgage interest..) concluded that she had a shortfall of $6,500 pm. The wife was also awarded her costs, albeit marked down from £26,000 to £15,000.
So there is often something that can be done if your spouse cuts you off, but your proposals must be reasonable and take account of any income you receive.
For practitioners, it is a fascinating area of law and requires skill in putting together a budget just as much as defending one. Both cases are important reading for matrimonial finance lawyers.
Lisa Pepper is a partner in the family department specialising in divorce and finance matters. She is also an accredited mediator. She is ranked as a leading lawyer in Chambers UK, Chambers HNW, The Legal 500, Spears HNW directory and Tatler Advisory.
To speak with Lisa or her team please call or complete the form below.
Lisa Pepper is particularly recognised for her role as a mediator in complex cross-border disputes. Her practice also includes handling prenuptial agreements and issues arising from divorces. She is additionally skilled in Schedule 1 and other child arrangement matters.
Mark Freedman frequently takes on high-value financial and children proceedings that involve complex tax, trust and accounting issues.
"Andrew Watson is respected and tenacious in matrimonial finance. You would want him on your team."
"David Leadercrammer is such an experienced wonderful lawyer who you would want on the other side of your case. He’s sensible, pragmatic and hugely experienced in money and children cases."
"She has a good way of talking to clients in an empathetic way and is also a highly recommended mediator."
"One of the most amiable, friendly and talented lawyers in London... she has impressed me as someone who fights my corner but also understands the importance of resolving issues without unnecessary escalation. She is calm and reassuring."
Lisa Pepper is the stand out performer of the practice. She is pragmatic and straightforward to deal with – committed to the good outcome for the family
Lisa Pepper is outstanding and highly approachable and effective. She has a lovely manner that brings out the best in clients.
Osbornes has a strong mediation team led by Lisa Pepper. Lisa is a very experienced mediator who often places clients at ease and allows them to discuss very difficult topics. She is empathetic but knows when to be more directive if the clients require.
Lisa Pepper is one of our go-to mediators. She provides a practical service, supporting clients to conclusion.
Lisa Pepper’s mediation practice is absolutely brilliant. Real value delivered with expert knowledge. Lisa is a first rate mediator.
Lisa Pepper is one of my go to mediators. Her calm, collected attitude and friendly persona allow clients to trust her and open up to her. Excellent service and top level advice.
Lisa Pepper – very down to earth and approachable.
Lisa Pepper is a talented lawyer and we regularly refer to her for mediation
"She is a phenomenal mediator. She is full of insight and is very creative in her solutions."
"She has a substantial amount of empathy which she brings to any mediation and she works extremely hard to gain the trust of people. She fully understands how complex financial disputes work and is well versed in dealing with individuals of high net worth."
Andrew secured me the best financial settlement for my claim. He is a credit to Osbornes Solicitors.
"Lisa Pepper was recommended to me as non-nonsense and able to help me with a difficult and confrontational divorce. She more than lived up to that – she was practical, collected and always available with a clear opinion and suggestions of how to move forwards. She also was open and helpful about costs and how to mitigate them"
"Mark Freedman is a very capable lawyer, renowned for not being a pushover and pushing his clients’ cases as much as he can, but will always talk sensibly about settlement. He is among the best – tenacious, good judgment and tactically aware."
"Mark Freedman is a dynamic and highly experienced family lawyer who fights extremely hard for his clients and is always in their corner, thus ensuring their loyalty and confidence. In a trial you would always want him on your side."
"Lisa Pepper is an outstanding mediator. She is very skilled and has an empathetic and professional approach which is comforting for clients. She never imposes her own view but is even handed and provides helpful guidance to clients so that they can make empowered decisions"
"Lisa Pepper has built up a very impressive mediation practice. She is very engaging and easy to relate to. She embodies mediation in the sense that she approaches her case in a very non-judgmental fashion and can quickly gain the confidence of those with whom she is mediating"
"Lisa Pepper is a brilliant mediator who produces results. She is effective at resolving matters without the need for the parties to engage in expensive and protracted litigation"
"Lisa Pepper is a fantastic mediator. She is fair, robust when she needs to be, and finds a way of facilitating agreements in the hardest of cases. Her guidance is spot on. She has an approachable and constructive mediation style"
"She has impressed me as someone who fights my corner but also understands the importance of resolving issues without unnecessary escalation. She is calm and reassuring."
"Her mediation practice is exceptional; she is also a great solicitor and has a breadth of skill which is really useful."
"He is really experienced and wise. He has a lovely manner about him and clients feel safe with him."
"Jo Wescott is top notch and widely recognised as a rising star throughout the profession. She brings a winning combination of great judgement, an immense work ethic, and a relaxed and charming way with opponents and clients alike. Someone you want on your side”
"Osbornes is pre-eminent for family law in North London. Mark Freedman is a real rainmaker. He is an excellent lawyer and has a top-notch practice"
Mark Freedman is intelligent and personable and has a good selection of high-net work cases.
"Exceptional value for money. Highly competent and reasonably priced. Mark Freedman: one of the best in the field."
"Client-focused. Ready to fight the clients’ corner, but also ready where possible to steer client from unnecessary dispute. Mark Freedman – very experienced, with good instinct for the eventual result. Clients love him and he thinks ahead and directs the client to the best result for the client."
Mark Freedman is a serious player. A fearless family law litigator, who protects his clients’ interests passionately.
Breadth of knowledge and willingness to go the extra mile is what makes it stand out. Mark Freedman – devoted to his clients
Lisa Pepper is extremely approachable and this shines through in the outcomes she achieves from mediation. She makes clients feel at ease, which enables them to feel empowered to resolve matters amicably and find a creative outcome which many mediators may have overlooked.
Lisa Pepper is building a very strong mediation practice at very competitive rates and is able to build a rapport quickly with almost anyone.
Lisa Pepper loves her work and has a very sensible head on her. That means her practice is thriving and rightly so.
Lisa Pepper is very thorough in her preparation and has super personal skills to put parties in mediation at ease
Lisa Pepper – good litigator, very friendly and approachable but tough, “straight bat” with the opposition. Can steer a client deftly to settle when he should.
Mark Freedman frequently takes on high-value financial and children proceedings that involve complex tax, trust and accounting issues. Sources praise the "tenacity and common sense" he brings to challenging disputes.
"Mark is very experienced, competent, good with clients and takes a sensible approach to cases. He knows exactly what he's doing."
Lisa Pepper is particularly recognised for her role as a mediator in complex cross-border disputes. Her practice also includes handling prenuptial agreements and issues arising from the dissolution of civil partnerships.
"An exceptional outfit. They take on difficult cases, fight hard and win."
"The team frequently deals with cross-border estates for high–net-worth individuals."
"Mark Freedman is a real heavyweight litigator who has dealt with some very significant cases."
"Mark Freedman boxes clever, keeps his powder dry and when it comes to the end game he negotiates a really good deal."
"Mark Freedman has a specific focus on high-net-worth divorces and finance cases where there are overseas assets and trusts."
"Lisa Pepper somehow manages to get parties to settle on matters where there isn’t much hope to start out with."
"The very personable and client-focused Lisa Pepper."
"Lisa can handle the large and complicated cases but takes equal care with the smaller cases. She is a highly skilled mediator who is a consummate professional."
"Lisa Pepper is "caring and considerate of the issues behind a matter, and will speak directly if she feels clients need that advice."
"Well-regarded family practice assisting clients with substantial matrimonial disputes and sensitive children proceedings."
"Mark Freedman draws acclaim for his work in high net worth divorce cases, including those involving company structures, family trusts and overseas assets."
"He never gives up. He fights for you to the end and has boundless energy."
Mark Freedman advises high-net-worth clients and knows his stuff.
Highly regarded for his experience as a litigation and mediation expertise, Mark Freedman is tenacious and determined. Clients really feel that he is fighting their corner.
Lisa Pepper is always looking for a solution and has a very sympathetic approach to clients. She is highly regarded for her collaborative law practice.
Andrew handled a very complex, 3 year legal battle for me, with a tremendous amount of patience and professionalism. He is very approachable, always kept me up to date, by phone and e-mail, and responded very quickly to my queries with excellent advice, sound strategic thinking and strong letters to put the other side under pressure. With top contacts for barristers, joint experts and mediation.
[The Family Law department] handles significant matrimonial finance cases and complex nuptial agreements. Respected for its expertise in cross-border children law matters.
Mark Freedman represents high net worth clients in complex financial disputes. Sources say that "he's a determined negotiator who'll always do the very best for his clients.
Lisa Pepper deals with separation proceedings and leave to remove cases. Sources describe her as "a great person to work with: constructive, helpful and always infectiously happy.
"Mark Freedman receives a lot of instructions from clients based abroad, often relating to complex divorce proceedings. Sources say: “His main strengths are his enthusiastic passion for the job in hand and his total dedication to his clients.”
Insights from Lisa PepperVIEW ALL
High income parents – how much child maintenance should...
When separating or divorcing parents cannot agree the amount of child maintenance to be paid, (in high income cases where...Read more
Judge ignores pre-nuptial agreement but factors in non-matrimonial...
Case Law One of the reasons I am still passionate about family law, after 20 years in the field, is that...Read more
How to set aside an order in financial...
My ex-spouse didn’t tell the truth about their finances when we divorced, can anything be done? Can the financial...Read more
Pension sharing on divorce
What is the new procedure for pension sharing? Pensions are one of the biggest assets of a marriage, yet many...Read more
What is a transfer of equity?
Transfer of equity in divorce Transfer of equity refers to the process of transferring part or all of a property...Read more
Do You Have To Go To Court For...
If your divorce is uncontested and there are no disputes over issues such as what happens to the marital home...Read more
My ex has cut me off during divorce
Can my spouse cut me off financially? Unfortunately, it is far too common that when a client says it’s...Read more
How the Court views loans from parents during divorce A frequent issue in financial divorce cases is a loan from...Read more
Mediation or Arbitration: What’s best for me?
Few divorcing couples want to end up in court, which is why mediation and arbitration are faster and more effective...Read more
Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) for Divorce
What is FDR for Divorce? Traditionally, a divorce financial settlement is dealt with by mutual agreement between the parties or...Read more
6 cases that shape a private children dispute
Family disputes involving children can be particularly emotive, which is why our expert children lawyers work tirelessly to understand how...Read more
Are irreconcilable differences grounds for divorce?
If you have come across this article, it may have resulted from an online search to see if you and...Read more
Negotiating financial settlements in divorce
Costly and acrimonious divorces: a lesson in what not to do If you’re determined to pursue your financial claims...Read more
Keeping social media out of divorce proceedings
We’ve recently seen the playing out on Twitter and Instagram of the high-profile separation of actor Ioan Gruffudd and...Read more
Case Law Divorce Settlement
6 cases that shape your divorce settlement Part of what makes our divorce lawyers experts in their field is knowing what...Read more
Child Maintenance: When is capital, income?
Reading a recent case from the Child Maintenance Tribunal, I considered it worth flagging up that the Child Maintenance Rules...Read more
Divorce in your 60s – The Financial Implications
How common is a divorce in your 60s? The latest divorce figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show...Read more
Financial responsibilities of father on divorce
What are the financial responsibilities of a father on divorce? The period drama Bridgerton, the runaway success of the winter,...Read more
Can you contest a prenuptial agreement?
Kanye West and Kim Kardashian are getting a divorce after nearly seven years of marriage. According to reports, Kim filed...Read more
What is a collaborative divorce? A collaborative divorce is where you and your spouse agree to resolve all matters arising...Read more
The Resurrection of Calderbank Offers When a couple divorces, they are encouraged by the Courts to consider other dispute resolution...Read more
My spouse is going bankrupt. Will it affect...
Bankruptcy on the rise in 2022 more than 1 in 10 UK businesses reported a moderate-to-severe risk of insolvency. During the same period, 22%...Read more
Child Arrangements at Christmas
The Christmas period can be a hectic and stressful time for all parents, but for separated parents, it can be...Read more
Can I take the children abroad on holiday?
Can a mother take a child out of the country without the father’s permission? The answer to this question...Read more