A judge has told the ex-wife of a world-renowned Newmarket vet that she should get a job and not expect to be “supported for life” at his expense.
In a decision which could see the end of continued maintenance payments for former partners of wealthy spouses, Lord Justice Pitchford said divorcees with children aged over seven should work for a living.
Former legal secretary and mother-of-two, Tracey Wright, 51, chose not to work when she split up with top equine surgeon, Ian Wright, in 2008.
After 11 years of marriage, the couple’s £1.3m, seven-bedroom, home, was sold and the proceeds split.
Mrs Wright came away with a £450,000, mortgage-free, house in Church Road, Wickhambrook. Her ex husband was also ordered to pay her and the children £75,000-a-year in maintenance and school fees.
However last year Mr Wright, 59, who works at the Newmarket Equine Hospital went to the High Court seeking to slowly reduce the spousal element of his maintenance payments. He argued it was not fair that he be expected to keep supporting his ex-wife indefinitely, even after his retirement, whilst she made “no effort whatsoever to seek work.”
Judge Lynn Roberts agreed and told Mrs Wright she should “just get on with it” and get a job, like “vast numbers of other women with children”.
Mrs Wright challenged that ruling but Lord Justice Pitchford sitting at the Court of Appeal upheld the previous decision to reduce her future maintenance.
As part of the original settlement, Mrs Wright, who lives with the couple’s youngest daughter, aged 10, was handed £75,000 yearly payments to cover maintenance and private school fees and which included £33,200 was for her personal upkeep. The couple’s eldest daughter is at boarding school.
Mark Johnston, for Mrs Wright, protested that having to care for a 10 year old was “an inherent restriction on her ability to develop any kind of earning capacity in the next five years.”
The assets Mrs Wright received in the split he said “wouldn’t come anywhere near allowing the wife to adjust without undue hardship,especially with one child still at home.”
But upholding Judge Roberts’ ruling, Lord Justice Pitchford confirmed that it was now “imperative that the wife go out to work and support herself.”
The wife had done nothing since 2008 to look for work, retrain or to prepare herself for work. He added the appeal judge (Judge Roberts) had found Mrs Wright had exaggerated her income needs and criticised her for being “evasive on the subject of her own earning capacity.”
Lord Justice Pitchford said that “the order was never intended to provide the wife with an income for life.”