Tuesday 10 December 2019

High Court grants woman divorce - orders husband to pay weekly maintenance of €400

A 15-year-old boy has pleaded not guilty to assaulting a school principal
A 15-year-old boy has pleaded not guilty to assaulting a school principal

Tim Healy

THE High Court has granted a woman a divorce and orders requiring her estranged husband pay her some €400 weekly maintenance plus €23,000 maintenance arrears.

She had claimed maintenance of some €900 weekly.

The man and woman, who have a number of adult children, judicially separated in the 1980s after being married for more than 20 years.  The maintenance is to be paid until the man reaches 65 next year, the court heard.

She initiated divorce proceedings in 2008 but they were delayed for various reasons until they were ultimately heard in January and March this year with judgment reserved.

In his judgment published this week, Mr Justice Michael White noted the woman was a homemaker during the marriage while the man held regular employment and was successful in his chosen career.

Difficulties emerged mainly due to the man's infidelity and the couple separated in the 1980s, the judge said.

A separation agreement was concluded under which the man was to pay the woman IR£400 maintenance weekly net of tax, to be increased annually in line with the Comsumer Price Index (CPI).

He was also to pay her half of royalty payments linked to his career and to transfer the mortgage-free family home to her without consideration. He held onto certain agricultural lands.

The man complied with his obligations under that agreement, the judge said.

While maintenance was not increased in accordance with the CPI, it was converted to €500 weekly and paid until Febrary 2011 when the man reduced it to €300. He also paid her royalties averaging €20,000 a year until end 2003 when he told her he could no longer afford to do so.

The man also transferred some lands to the woman although they disputed whether that was with conditions, the judge said. She  later re-transferred some of those lands to him for €125,000, again in disputed circumstances.

The homes of the man and woman were valued about €250,000 and €300,000 respectively while the woman also owned another property.

The essence of the woman's case was she wanted compliance with the original separation agreement through having the maintenance index linked from the late 1980s to date, plus payment of half the royalties from late 2003.  She calculated maintenance of some €918 weekly, plus arrears, and alleged the man was hiding income.

Since the separation, the man made substantial financial provision for the woman, the judge said.

He ruled it would be inappropriate at this remove to enforce the conditions of the separation agreement concerning index-linking of maintenance and royalties. The woman had acquiesced in the non-payment of any CPI increase and cessation of royalty payments, he said.

However, the woman had not acquiesced in the decrease of maintenance to €300 per week, he said.

The court had to deal with proper provsion for the woman in the context of the up to date sworn affidavit of means of the man based on income tax returns, accounts prepared by chartered accountants and a statement of royalties, he said.

There was no evidence he was withholding vital financial information or has substantial assets which he has not disclosed, he added.

The man has a continuing duty to pay periodic maintenance and was not entitled during these proceedings to reduce that to €300 weekly, he ruled. 

Based on the four years to 2011, the man's gross income was some €76,000 annually, the judge said.

On those figures, he could pay the woman €400 weekly until he became eligible to draw the old age pension when the maintenance will have to be significantly reduced, he ruled. The man must also pay maintenance arrears of some €23,000, the judge directed.

The court also granted a decree of divorce.

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