The issue of spousal maintenance can often be an emotive one, especially if one party does not believe that they should continue to support the other after separation. The orders can last for varying amounts of time and depend on several different circumstances, so professional guidance is essential before you proceed.
What is Spousal Maintenance?
When a married couple separates, it is almost inevitable that there will be less money to go around – given the fact that there are now two households to take care of rather than just one. Because of this, many people could find themselves in a precarious financial position once the divorce has been finalised.
One party, for example, may not be in employment due to their childcare responsibilities or might be in a low-income position and could struggle to effectively manage their household without additional support. This is where spousal maintenance can help.
Maintenance payments can either be made as a one-off settlement or as regular instalments, depending on what is agreed upon. In cases of ongoing support, payments will be stopped when the recipient remarries or if either party dies. It can also be withdrawn if there is a significant change in circumstances.
It is also possible for informal agreements to take place between both parties, perhaps to split capital assets such as savings or the house in favour of the party who would suffer the most financial hardship. In these circumstances, spousal maintenance will be deemed to have been capitalised, instead of being paid in instalments.
Can I Claim Spousal Maintenance After Divorce?
You are able to apply for spousal maintenance if you feel that you will not be able to manage financially after separation, either because you will be placed at a disadvantage or that your standard of living will decrease severely.
There is no set formula to work out how spousal maintenance should be calculated. The only stipulations must be that the party paying the maintenance can afford their obligations and the recipient’s claim is genuine.
The amount of money you could receive depends on a number of factors, such as:
- How much money you need to live on
- The amount of income you already have
- The level of income you could potentially earn in the future
- How many children you have
- The assets that belong to the person making the payments
- The way in which both parties lived during the marriage
To establish whether you would be eligible for spousal maintenance, it is a good idea to ask yourself the following questions:
- What are your financial needs and income potential? Do you think your needs can be met without support from your ex partner?
- Have you given up your career to support your former spouse and your family?
- Would you be financially better off receiving a lump sum from your ex partner, rather than continuous payments?
- Would you be prepared to take the case to Court if your ex partner refuses to pay spousal maintenance?
- Are you planning to remarry? If so, you will lose your right to spousal maintenance.
Since there are so many variables at stake, you should always consult with a specialist solicitor who will be able to recommend the best course of action according to your individual circumstances.
How Long Should Payments be Made For?
The duration of spousal maintenance depends largely on how long you have been married for. If the marriage or civil partnership lasts for around five years or less, the Courts will usually impose a Term Order – which mandates a specific length of time during which the payments should be made. However, this may not be the case in circumstances where the Court feels that the payee may not be able to become financially independent.
If the couple has been married or in a civil partnership for a long period of time, the Court will likely impose a Joint Lives Order. This stipulates that the payments must continue until either party dies. The Court will also look at whether there is a chance that the recipient can move closer to becoming financially independent as time goes on.
Can a Clean Break Be Achieved?
Before deciding how much spousal maintenance should be paid and for how long, it might be a good idea to investigate whether a clean break is both possible and fair. In these circumstances, a lump sum will usually be given in lieu of regular payments – after which both parties will be totally financially independent of each other.
As with most things, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to working out which way to proceed. It is therefore essential that you consult a specialist solicitor as soon as possible, as they will be able to gain a thorough understanding of your situation and recommend the right approach for your individual circumstances.
Can the Payment Amount be Changed?
In cases where an ongoing spousal maintenance payment is active, the Courts can be requested to adjust the amount of money that is being paid. Applications of this nature can be made if there is a significant change in circumstances – such as gaining or losing employment.
It is important to understand that the payment amount can be both lowered or increased depending on the new circumstances involved. For example, if the recipient secures a new job or comes into a sum of money that would make them more financially independent, the amount of money provided by spousal maintenance could go down. This would also apply if the party making the payments is no longer able to do so.
Similarly, if the recipient finds themselves in a position where they become more financially dependent, such as if they lose their job, they could apply to the Court to increase the amount of support provided.
Get Professional Guidance
As we’ve mentioned previously, it is crucial that you seek specialist support when deciding the best course of action to take. This is where Shams Williams can help.
Our team of specialist divorce solicitors are available to guide you throughout the entire process. We take the time to thoroughly understand your circumstances and recommend a solution that is designed to help. We will also provide constant support from the first enquiry right the way through to completion – so you can be confident that everything is being taken care of.