In March, former business woman and homemaker Jane Morris was awarded £500,000 in her divorce settlement following her split from software tycoon Peter Morris -nearly the entirety of their matrimonial assets.
During proceedings, Mr Morris was also ordered to pay his ex-wife, the primary caregiver of their three children, £77,000 in maintenance. When Mr Morris failed to comply with the court order, he received a six-week suspended prison sentence. The Daily Mail reports that now, however, Mr Morris is seeking a "clean break", which would put an end to his financial obligations to his ex-wife.
The former couple had previously enjoyed an "extravagant" lifestyle, with Mr Morris reportedly earning up to £240,000 per annum. When the Morrises separated in 2013, their expenditure continued unabated, and their fortune whittled away to £560,000. English divorce courts champion an equitable division of assets on divorce yet, due to the Morrises’ profligacy, in this case there was only enough money left to cover the everyday needs of the wife and the children.
Whilst some commentators saw the decision to award the majority of the assets to Ms Morris as a sign that the UK courts are unfairly biased in the homemaker’s favour, this perspective fails to take into account the fact that Mr Morris’ future earning power remains intact. His ex-wife, however, gave up her career as recruitment consultant to care for their children, and having been out of employment for twenty years, her earning capacity is drastically reduced.
When the case first made headlines earlier this year, Vardags director Georgina Hamblin called attention to this fact in her piece for The Independent, in which she hailed the ruling a "victory for parents everywhere":
"This case is a celebration of parenthood. All mothers, and indeed fathers, who are the primary carers of their children will have their contributions to the family fully recognised by the family court in the division of their finances."
After Mr Morris failed to pay his ex-wife the maintenance she was owed, Mr Morris received a suspended prison sentence. However, his lawyer Peter Duckworth told the Court of Appeal that "there is nothing to suggest that the husband wilfully or deliberately neglected to pay maintenance", and that his client was simply financially incapable of meeting the payments. He therefore asked for a"clean break", to rid himself of all fiscal responsibilities to his ex-wife.
Damien Garrido QC, acting on behalf of Mrs Morris, implored the court to uphold the maintenance order, stating that there was "a complete absence of clarity" about Mr Morris’s income, due to "contradictory statements and complete lack of disclosure."
According to the Daily Mail, Mrs Morris’ barrister then "went on to assert that Mr Morris is receiving substantially more money each month than he professes."
The Court of Appeal will hand down their judgment at a later date.