Judge tells ex-wife of millionaire horse surgeon: 'go out to work'
Appeal by Tracey Wright against decision by family court to slash her future maintenance from former husband rejected
Tracey Wright pictured at her home in Wickhambrook, Suffolk. Lord Justice Pitchford said divorcees with children over seven should work for a livingshould work for a living. Photograph: Rob Howarth/Albanpix.com
An appeal court judge has told the ex-wife of a millionaire horse surgeon to seek employment, warning that she has no right to expect “an income for life” at her former husband’s expense.
In a decision that may have wider ramifications for the ex-partners of wealthy spouses, Lord Justice Pitchford said divorcees with children aged over seven should work for a living.
The comments were made as he rejected a challenge by mother-of-two Tracey Wright to a decision by a family court judge to slash her future maintenance.
Wright, a 51-year-old former legal secretary and riding instructor, had opted not to be a working mother when she split up with her husband Ian in 2008 after 11 years of marriage.
The couple’s £1.3m seven-bedroom home, set in 16 acres of Suffolk countryside, was ordered to be sold and the proceeds split. She came away with a £450,000 mortgage-free house along with stabling for her horse and her daughters’ ponies.
Her ex-husband, who was also ordered to pay her and the children £75,000-a-year in maintenance and school fees, went last year to the high court to seek a cut in his bills.
He protested it was not fair that he be expected to keep supporting his ex-wife indefinitely, even after his retirement, while she made “no effort whatsoever to seek work.” A family court judge told Wright to get a job, like “vast numbers of other women with children”.
Sitting at the court of appeal, Pitchford rejected her challenge to the decision to cut her future maintenance and said that it is now “imperative that the wife go out to work and support herself”.
“The time had come to recognise that, at the time of his retirement, the husband should not be paying spousal maintenance,” he said.
“The wife had done nothing since 2008 to look for work, retrain or to prepare herself for work.”
He added: “There is a general expectation that, once children are in year two, mothers can begin part-time work and make a financial contribution,” he went on.
As part of the divorce order, Wright, who lives with the couple’s youngest daughter, 10, was handed £75,000 yearly payments, of which £33,200 was spousal maintenance for her personal upkeep.
The court heard that her husband steadfastly made the payments, but was worried that supporting his wife would be unaffordable after he retires at 65.
Pitchford said that “the order was never intended to provide the wife with an income for life” and concluded: “The onus will henceforth be on her. This application is dismissed.”
Judge Lynn Roberts last year agreed that there was no good reason why Wright had not done a stroke of paid work in the six years since the divorce.
The judge criticised her for being “evasive on the subject of her own earning capacity” and said: “The world of work has innumerable possibilities these day ... vast numbers of women with children just get on with it and Mrs Wright should have done as well.”
Mark Johnston, representing Wright, challenged that ruling, protesting that having to care for a 10-year-old – the couple’s older daughter being a boarding pupil at a public school – “is an inherent restriction on her ability to develop any kind of earning capacity in the next five years”.
He warned that Roberts’ order would cause “a plummeting in the standard of living” of the youngest child.
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