(Court of Appeal, Thorpe, Kitchin LJJ, Baron J, 24 January 2013)
Following divorce a judge ordered that the wife pay the husband a lump sum of £450,000. However, while the wife paid sum of the money due there still remained £210,000 outstanding. The wife claimed she no longer had the means to pay due to the dramatic decline in her business which went into administration.
The husband brought enforcement proceedings while the wife issued proceedings under s 31 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 seeking a variation of the original order. The judge permitted the wife's application and granted her an extension of time in which to pay the remaining sums. The husband appealed.
The Court of Appeal found that the judge had been wrong to conclude that under s 23(1)(c) of the MCA 1973 any order for the payment of lump sums over time was an order for a lump sum by installments. Although the judge misdirected herself on the meaning of s 23(1)(c) she was entitled to hold that the case fell within s23(3). The section was widely drafted and provided scope to vary a lump sum and therefore it stood to reason that the power would also apply to timing. She had been well within her discretion to vary as to the timing of payment taking into consideration the needs of the wife and children who lived with her.