Law Report: Wife could apply for fresh financial order

LAW REPORT: 19 June 1997

Hill v Hill; Court of Appeal (Lord Woolf, Master of the Rolls, Lord Justice Millett and Lord Justice Ward) 11 June 1997

A woman who had cohabited with her husband for 25 years after their divorce in 1968, and who had been granted maintenance and other financial provision in the divorce proceedings, was entitled on their subsequent separation to further provision to take account of their improved financial circumstances since the divorce.

The Court of Appeal allowed the appellant's appeal against Mr Justice Holman's refusal to set aside a lump sum order or make a property adjustment order in divorce proceedings.

Mr and Mrs Hill had married in 1962. They were divorced in 1968, and Mr Hill was ordered to pay Mrs Hill pounds 6 per week maintenance, pounds 3 per week for each of the two children, and a sum of pounds 75; and to transfer to her ownership of a Mini car "in full settlement of any claims the petitioner may have in respect of the matrimonial home . . . under section 17, Married Women's Property Act 1882".

Shortly after the decree absolute the parties had resumed cohabitation, but had separated again in 1994. Over that period their financial position had improved. Mrs Hill subsequently applied by notice issued in the 1968 divorce proceedings for a variation of the original periodical payments order, a property adjustment order, and a lump sum order or, if a lump sum order had originally been made, a re-hearing.

Ashley Ailes (Bernard Chill & Axtell, Eastleigh) for the appellant; Edward Boydell (Lamport Bassitt, Southampton) for the respondent.

Lord Justice Ward said that Mrs Hill's claim should be viewed as one based upon the decree of divorce but put in abeyance during the subsequent cohabitation, rather than as one based upon cohabitation.

A distinction could not be drawn in principle between premarital cohabitation and post-divorce cohabitation.

Whilst fully supporting the view that as a matter of policy the cohabitee should not be regarded in any way as having the equivalent right of a wife or a former wife, there was another important aspect of policy to bear in mind. That was the policy of encouraging reconciliation wherever possible.

It was universally recognised that it was better for children to grow up cared for by parents who were together than by parents who were separated. As a result of the reconciliation in the present case, the children had been given the stability of a settled home. To treat cohabitation with her former husband as cohabitation with a stranger was to distort the reality of their relationship.

The test for deciding whether or not to grant leave to Mrs Hill to make her property adjustment application was essentially holding the balance of justice between the parties. She would suffer undoubted hardship if the court did not intervene: he had the means to redress it. The balance tipped in favour of the appellant.

The judge had erred in principle in construing the order of 15 January 1969 as a disposal of the prayer of the petition for a lump sum order. He had therefore erred in law in concluding that the court was without jurisdiction to entertain that claim. No policy consideration precluded it.

As for the application for leave to apply for a property adjustment order, the judge had erred in finding that there had been a comprehensive property settlement at the time of the divorce which expressly took into account any interest which Mrs Hill might have had in the then available property. That left the court free to exercise its own discretion.

The appeal would therefore be allowed. The court did have jurisdiction to entertain the appellant's claims for a lump sum order and/or for a property adjustment order. The appellant did not need leave to proceed with the former but should have leave to proceed with the latter.

Kate O'Hanlon, Barrister

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits