Outcome: Orders made
1 The Ex-Husband filed an application seeking a recission or downward variation of the monthly maintenance of $4,000 payable by him to the Ex-Wife under a subsisting maintenance order, on the basis that: (a) he was no longer an equity partner of a law firm; (b) he had remarried and needed to provide for his entire family’s expenses; and (c) his health was worsening.
2 The High Court allowed the Ex-Husband’s application as it found that there had been a material change in his circumstances. The monthly maintenance payable by the Ex-Husband to the Ex-Wife was varied downwards to $1,500 per month.
3 In determining whether a “material change in the circumstances” is established under s 118 of the Women’s Charter 1961, the court must assess the alleged change from the time post-ancillary order (or post-ancillary matters hearing), against circumstances existing at the time of the ancillary matters hearing. As opposed to whether there has been any change by itself, the question is whether the change was sufficiently material such that it is no longer reasonable to expect that the circumstances remain consistent: at  and .
4 While remarriage should not, in itself, affect or compromise the pre-existing obligations owed by a husband to his wife and children from his previous marriage, it is a factor to be considered in determining if there has been a material change in circumstances. The husband, having placed himself in meeting the obligations to two families, must make reasonable efforts and find reasonable solutions to strike a balance in maintaining both families: at  and .
5 Factors under s 114(1) of the Women’s Charter 1961 should be considered in determining if a recission or variation of the amount of maintenance payable is appropriate. The husband’s retirement does not prima facie justify recission of his obligation to maintain his wife, and does not represent that he has no earning capacity: at  and  to .
6 It is reasonable to expect that financial resources to maintain a child from the second marriage will increase as he or she grows older. However, the obligation to maintain the child is shared between both parents in view of the equal duty of parents under s 68 of the Women’s Charter 1961 to maintain their children thus the financial resources of the Ex-Husband’s current wife is relevant in assessing the Ex-Husband’s financial obligations: at .
7 Courts generally adopt a broad-brush philosophy in dealing with financial matters in divorce proceedings, and it would not be helpful to conduct a granular analysis of each item claimed by parties as part of their monthly expenses: at .
The full text of the decision can be found here.
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