A woman who decided not to look for work after splitting from her millionaire husband in 2008 was told by a judge to “get a job” because she doesn’t have the right to be “supported for life” on her husband’s dime.
Highly successful racehorse surgeon Ian Malcolm Wright and his now ex-wife, Tracey Susan Wright, were forced to sell their luxurious 16-acre home after divorcing, and Wright was ordered to pay £75,000 [$115,665] a year to his wife for living expenses and their daughter’s school fees. Last year, Ian went to the High Court and attempted to have the bill reduced, arguing that he shouldn’t have to support his unemployed wife. Wright said that Tracey made “no effort whatsoever to seek work” since their divorce.
Judge Lynn Roberts ruled in favor of Wright, telling Tracey to “just get on with it” and get a job like the “vast numbers of other women with children.”
“The world of work has innumerable possibilities these days...vast numbers of women with children just get on with it and Mrs Wright should have done as well,” Roberts said. “I do not think the children will suffer if Mrs Wright has to work, and indeed a working mother at this stage of their lives may well provide them with a good role model. It is possible to find work that fits in with childcare responsibilities. I reject her other reasons relating to responsibilities for animals, or trees, or housekeeping. Mrs Wright has made no effort whatsoever to seek work or to update her skills ... I am satisfied that she has worked on the basis ... that she would be supported for life. It is essential ... that she starts to work now.”
Roberts ruled that Wright’s payments to his wife stop after a gradual decrease over a five-year period ending when he retires at age 65.
Tracey subsequently challenged the ruling, which went to the court of appeals this week. Mark Johnston, who represented Tracey in the appeal, said that Judge Roberts’ ruling would cause “a plummeting in the standard of living” of youngest child, who still lives at home, and that the assets as they were adjusted “wouldn't come anywhere near allowing the wife to adjust without undue hardship...especially with one child still at home.”
Lord Justice Pitchford rejected Tracey’s appeal, ruling in favor of Roberts’ original order.
“The time had come to recognize [sic] that, at the time of his retirement, the husband should not be paying spousal maintenance,” Pitchford said. “The wife had done nothing since 2008 to look for work, retrain or to prepare herself for work. Judge Roberts did not accept any of the explanations put forward by the wife for her inactivity and ruled that it was important that she obey the order. She had harsh words for the wife for her complete failure to confront her obligation to contribute financially. She found the wife exaggerated her income needs. There is a general expectation that, once children are in year two, mothers can begin part-time work and make a financial contribution."
Pitchford said that the original amount Wright was ordered to pay his wife “was never intended to provide the wife with an income for life.”
“The onus will henceforth be on her,” Judge Pitchford concluded. “This application is dismissed.”