Mother’s Childcare Budget Shows £10,555 a Year for Wine – Is That Too Extravagant?
Many of us like to have a nice glass of wine once in a while. But is an annual wine budget of £10,555 too much to include as a line item on a childcare budget, in the context of a separation by parents?
This was one of the questions in a high-profile U.K. case involving a wealthy hedge fund manager and his common-law wife. The couple had a 7-year old child together, and the man – who had assets of around £660 million – had been paying the mother about £12,000 per month support, which was actually more than the £8,000 per month had been agreed under a 2009 separation agreement.
In this context, the mother had asked the court to declare that agreement invalid, in favour of forcing the man to pay the higher monthly support amounts for both her and the child, at least on an interim basis until there could be a final hearing. To this end, she submitted a suggested budget to show her childcare expenses, which included “Housekeeper’s funds” and “Petty case funds” that totaled £31,200, and four different categories of budget for clothes and toys for the child, which totaled about £20,000.
Reflecting on the last point, the court stated:
That seems to me to be a great deal of money for clothes and toys for the seven-year-old son even of a multimillionaire and, in my approach, I reduce it, although I still allow a significant sum.
The court scrutinized the mother’s proposed level of expenses in detail. On the £5,000 in the mother’s budget for swimming lessons – which was in addition to the £6,000 already contained in the budget for the child’s “Leisure/hobbies” – the court wrote:
Separately, there is an item of £5,000 for “Swimming lessons (cash).” This seems an excessive amount for a seven-year-old boy who can already, as I was told, swim. It seems to pertain partly to paying for some swimming instructor to attend some private swimming pool that the mother chooses to use. I reduce the amount allowable for swimming lessons.
Finally, the court considered a large figured that had been included in the mother’s annual budget for wine.:
There is a claim of £10,555 per annum for “Wine”. The child is aged seven and does not consume the wine. This appears to be a mixture of wine supplied by the mother to the parents of children when they visit her home, and some general entertaining. In her statement, she showed that she was allowing an average of £50 per bottle for the wine. It seems to me that in the context of a claim under Schedule 1 to the Children Act , which must be for the maintenance of the child, I should not allow as high a figure as £10,500 per annum for wine, although I do, in my approach, still allow a significant figure for wine.
The court went on to slash many other items in the mother’s budget, though still allowed her what many would consider a lavish amount for daily living. In the end, it arrived at a final figure of £8,000 per month owing from the father to the mother for interim support, with a final figure – and the validity of the 2009 agreement – to be determined at a later trial. However, the court expressed some disdain that the parties would go to court for what ended up being a relatively minor difference in funding levels. As the court explained:
Just pausing there, we have a difference, therefore, between these two parties at this hearing of £60,000 in a full year. To most people, £60,000 is a great deal of money. I do comment that to these parties, and to this father, £60,000 over a full year is little more than small change in his pocket. As this case will presumably be finally decided well within a year, the actual amount effectively in issue today has come down to somewhere considerably less than £60,000, and I have to say that I do not find it very edifying that people in this financial bracket should be taking up a day of court time over a sum which to them, though not to others, is objectively so small.
As the saying goes: “More money, more problems.”
For the full text of this U.K. decision, see:
Antonio v. Rokos,  EWHC 520 (Fam); Case No. ZCI5P04051, February 15, 2016, High Court of Justice Family Division