Spousal Maintenance Jones Myers Family Law

Spousal maintenance

Bridging inequalities in your finances

Ongoing financial support

When you marry you are entering a financial commitment in addition to an emotional one. Divorce does not automatically bring an end to the financial obligations between the involved parties. It is generally accepted that significant income disparities between spouses may necessitate ongoing financial support to prevent undue hardship, especially when considering the well-being of any children involved.

If one party does not have an income, they may be entitled to a maintenance claim so they can deal with their monthly outgoings. This is based on need and it can be applied for as an emergency measure in some cases. There is no set formula for working out how much spousal maintenance is payable. As a result, it can be one of the most complex and contentious areas when it comes to reaching a divorce settlement.

What is spousal maintenance?

Spousal maintenance is a payment that’s paid by one party to the other as part of their financial settlement in relation to their divorce or separation. Usually, it is paid every month and it can last for either a defined period or, in increasingly rare cases, for the rest of a former spouses’ life. The latter is known as a “joint lives order.”

Spousal maintenance is not the same as child maintenance. The latter is statutory and the amount to be paid is determined by the Child Maintenance Service.

The amount of spousal maintenance and its duration can be determined either through mutual agreement between the parties or by a court decision if an agreement cannot be reached.

Spousal maintenance can be terminated if the recipient of the maintenance gets married again or enters into a civil partnership. It also ceases if either party dies. Spousal maintenance will usually be paid until the spouse can either support themselves or their financial needs are reduced, for example when the children finish school or university, or they leave home.

How do we decide on the amount of spousal maintenance?

The first step is to establish whether there should be any spousal maintenance at all. The law requires the court to consider the possibility of a clean break order in every case (where there is a final settlement with no financial obligations between you in the future) and that same objective will be relevant to non-court approaches such as negotiation, mediation or collaborative law. Only if a clean break isn’t appropriate immediately do you move on to the next stage of looking at the amount of spousal maintenance and how long it might be paid for. 

When it comes to calculating spousal maintenance, there is no set formula to follow – unlike child maintenance. Usually, the amount to be paid is determined by the couple or by the court after considering the circumstances. The court will decide both the amount to be paid and the length of time. The amount to be paid is very much decided on both your reasonable budgets moving forwards.

If circumstances change significantly after a spousal maintenance order has been made, either party can apply to the court to vary the terms of the maintenance order. The court will consider factors such as changes in income, employment status, or financial needs to determine whether a variation is appropriate.

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