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Andrew Meehan: Applications for Variation of Periodical Payments: VB v JP

Date:11 JUN 2008

Andrew Meehan, Solicitor, Mills and Reeve LLP, Leeds

It is now 2 years since the House of Lords' decision in Miller v Miller; McFarlane v McFarlane [2006] UKHL 24, [2006] 1 FLR 1186 in which Baroness Hale of Richmond outlined the court's duty to consider not only the s 25 Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (MCA 1973) criteria, and the overarching requirement of fairness implicit from the statute, but also three (previously unlabelled) strands of fairness, namely needs, compensation and sharing.

Following Miller/McFarlane, family lawyers and the courts have grappled with the interpretation, significance and application of these three novel principles. Doing so has proved problematical in some applications for variation of an existing spousal periodical payments order because the original order will usually have been made several years previously, so certainly before Miller/McFarlane and, more often than not, before White v White [2000] 2 FLR 981. Since Miller/McFarlane, there have been a number of first instance decisions heard by the High Court regarding applications to vary periodical payments, but no assistance has yet been given by the higher courts. However, a recent High Court case, VB v JP [2008] EWHC 112 (Fam), [2008] 1 FLR 742, which was heard by the President of the Family Division, Sir Mark Potter, provided a useful review of the line of the post-Miller/McFarlane authorities and is a helpful guide to the current state of the law in variation applications, particularly those involving a claim under the second strand of fairness - compensation for relationship - generated disadvantage.

For the full article, see June [2008] Family Law journal.

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