Divorce settlements are designed to provide certainty and finality so that people can get on with the rest of their lives. However, an important Court of Appeal decision has underlined that they can be modified after the event if circumstances demand.

A husband had, amongst other things, been ordered by a judge to share his pension entitlements equally with his wife and to pay her £1,200 per month pending the sale of their matrimonial home. He failed to comply in full with either of those provisions and the wife sought to bring the matter back before the judge.

He initially agreed to modify his order so that, following the sale of the house, the husband would still be required to pay £1,000 per month in maintenance pending the wife's share of his pension being made available to her. However, he subsequently ruled that he did not have the power to extend the period over which maintenance would be payable. The wife was directed to repay to the husband sums that she had already received under the modified order.

In upholding her challenge to the latter decision, the Court of Appeal noted that, after the initial settlement, both husband and wife had been granted liberty to apply to the judge for further directions as to the implementation and timing of the terms of the order. That conferred jurisdiction on the judge to amend the order and the manner in which he did so was entirely appropriate.

Expert legal representation is essential in cases like this, especially ones in which a lower court judge makes an incorrect ruling.

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