Spousal Maintenance is often seen as a natural entitlement on Divorce, an assumed right, an income needed to secure the lifestyle the marriage has provided you and your family. Finances and children are the two major sources of anxiety together with uncertainty at the start of the separation process. However, how do you know whether you will be entitled to receive maintenance payments?
When a couple divorces, one party may sometimes be ordered to pay maintenance to the other party. However, this is not always the case by any means and the emphasis is on both parties becoming financially independent.
The issue of maintenance is fairly complex and the court will take several factors into account when deciding if it should be paid and how much it should be.
It is separate from any child maintenance that is paid although sometimes you can look at global maintenance payments which are a combination of the two.
Why might spousal maintenance be payable?
There is no automatic right to maintenance, but there is a duty to provide for a former spouse so that their reasonable financial needs are met. The financial needs of the paying party will also be taken into account.
This means that if one party is in a better place financially than the other, they may be required to make regular payments to ensure that their former spouse has their reasonable ongoing financial needs taken care of.
You often find the needs at the start of the separation process may well be more than at then end given there needs to be a transitional process where you are both looking to live within your means so far as you can which may result in some expenditure having to be reduced.
What will the court consider in deciding how much should be paid?
Where one party has given up their career or opportunities for advancement to raise the children of the marriage and it has left them in a financially weaker position, the court will take this into account.
The court will also look at the standard of living during the marriage when considering the amount of any maintenance, although this will be balanced with the aim of encouraging independence.
Both parties will need to disclose all of their financial assets and also draw up a schedule of their anticipated future expenditure. The court will attempt to achieve fairness for both parties in making its award.
How long will maintenance be payable for?
The court will look to make an order that allows the weaker party to become independent as soon as is just and reasonable. This could mean maintenance for between two and five years for example, and is known as a fixed term order or for life which is known as a joint lives order.
Even if there is some hardship in transferring to financial independence, this is considered preferable to long term maintenance. However, if the person receiving payments would suffer undue hardship if they ended, the court will consider continuing maintenance. This could occur if one party had not worked for many years because they were raising the children of the family, and the court might in this case make an order providing maintenance for life.
Both parties have an ongoing duty to inform each other of any substantial change in their financial or other circumstances. They can also apply to the court to vary the maintenance order if there is a change in the funds they have available.
It is also worth while acknowledging that Spousal maintenance payments will end if the party receiving funding remarries and may be reviewed if you were to cohabit.
Spousal maintenance if ordered is not always guaranteed in that what if the paying party becomes unable to work or lose their job. Covid has been a prime example of the risks which flow from maintenance payments. As a result of this some people prefer to offset the need for maintenance by taking a larger share of the capital and thus reducing their income needs in this way. However, this may not be an option for you.
Every case is looked at on its own facts so there is no set criteria or equation that would apply to your case. This is where expert legal advice can help you to identify the best options for you.
If you are going through a divorce or separation and you would like to speak to one of our expert lawyers, ring us on 0151 8 32 32 53 or email us at email@example.com. Alternatively schedule a telephone consultation here https://lawtap.com/uk/secure/law-firms/174-family-law/lawyers