There has been a definite move by the Judiciary to depart from making orders for spousal maintenance in divorce cases on a life basis where possible and a clear expectation for the receiving party (usually the wife) to seek employment to fit around any childcare commitments.
In a recent case dealing with a variation application by a husband; Wright v Wright  EWCA Civ 201, the court considered this point.
The case involved a joint lives maintenance order in favour of the wife, in addition to child maintenance and payment of school fees. The wife had previously worked as a legal secretary and administrator. On making the original order, the Judge had specifically stated in her judgement that the wife would be expected to work within the following 2 years. The Judge had commented “There is a general expectation in these courts that once a child is in year 2, most mothers can consider part time work consistent with their obligations to their children.”
Upon the husband’s application to vary the spousal maintenance order, the court ordered a gradual reduction in the maintenance over a 6 year period, after which payments would cease. The Judge in dealing with the application commented that a working mother would be a good role model for the children, and that “vast numbers of women with children just get on with it, and Mrs X should have done as well.” The Judge found that the wife had made no effort to get a job and without good reason.
Please feel free to contact Emma Lawler or any other member of our Divorce and Family team.