There are lots of considerations when making financial agreements during divorce proceedings, from asset division to pensions. One of the most complex areas is spousal maintenance, causing lots of confusion about when it should be paid and for how long. To make things easier to understand, here is some insight into what to expect.

Spousal Maintenance After A Divorce

What is spousal maintenance?

Spousal maintenance is the regular payments made by an ex-husband or ex-wife where the other party is unable to support themselves financially. This will usually be in the form of a monthly payment for a defined period of time.

A spousal maintenance orders will prevent a ‘clean break’ divorce in so far as income is concerned until the term of the order expires, so you can also consider a lump sum payment if making a private agreement.  It does not apply to unmarried couples looking to make a separation agreement.

Is spousal maintenance the same as child maintenance?

No. Child maintenance covers a child’s living costs and is made privately between parents (if in agreement) or through the Child Maintenance Service.  However, both types of maintenance can be enforced through the courts if an ex-partner refuses to make the necessary payments, but only if a CMS calculation has been undertaken.

Who is entitled to spousal maintenance?

Spousal maintenance can often be a source of disagreement between separating couples, and nobody has an automatic right to it.  However, divorce law will always consider future needs, and when you get married, you make a financial commitment to each other. Therefore, if one party does not have sufficient income or assets to cover their needs, they may be eligible for ongoing financial support from their ex-partner after divorce so long as that person has disposable income to meet the payments.

How long do spousal maintenance payments need to be made?

How long spousal maintenance requirements last will vary from case to case.  If you agree, this can be defined by the separating couple.  In other cases, the court will decide.

Spousal maintenance is usually paid for a fixed period of say 3-5 years, however in some circumstances it can be paid until the recipient no longer needs additional financial support.  The agreement can be stopped if circumstances change, such as the recipient remarrying or the person paying the maintenance loses their job, but a court application would need to be made if the parties cannot agree this.

How is spousal maintenance decided?

Factors considered for spousal maintenance decisions include the age of children involved, living arrangements, the resources required to raise the children, appropriate budgets of both parties, the ability to work, lifestyles enjoyed during the marriage, retirement ages and the marriage length (known as Section 25 factors).

Ultimately, it is about whether each party can support themselves financially without spousal maintenance. If you agree on regular payments, the amount received will depend on how much you need to live on, your income and your future earning potential.

Do you need expert divorce advice? Contact our family law firm

At Bellwether Solicitors, we offer expert family law and divorce services, providing the legal support you need. For help and advice with spousal maintenance payments or starting divorce proceedings, please get in touch. We have offices in Kingston and Cheam, with clients in Chessington and Epsom.

To get started, contact us today.