What is spousal maintenance?

Spousal maintenance can also be referred to as a periodical payment order. One party must pay the other spouse/civil partner a sum of money on a weekly or monthly basis. 

Whilst there is an expectation in the eyes of the Family Law court that both parties will contribute financially to their own needs as far as they can, decisions made during the marriage or civil partnership may mean that one spouse will need more income to meet their needs. In such circumstances, it may be appropriate to seek spousal maintenance. 

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Who can apply for maintenance?

Either spouse or civil partner is eligible to make an application to the court for maintenance. 

The parties may be able to reach an agreement directly about the appropriate level and period of maintenance. Mediation is also an option which is well worth considering. 

If you and your partner cannot reach an agreement about maintenance, then you will need to make an application to the court. 

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What will the court consider?

The court has a very wide discretion and can make a whole host of orders. 

 When deciding whether to grant a spousal maintenance order, the court will have regard to those factors listed within section 25 MCA 1973, namely:

(a) The income and earning capacity that each of the parties has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;

(b) Earning capacity, any increase in that capacity that it would be reasonable to expect the parties to take steps to acquire;

(c) The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities that each of the parties have or are likely to have in the foreseeable future;

(d) The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage or civil partnership;

(e) The age of the parties and the length of the marriage or civil partnership;

(f) Any physical or mental disability either of the parties has;

(g) Contributions made, or likely in the foreseeable future to be made, to the welfare of the family, including any non-economic contribution;

(h) Conduct, if that conduct is such that it would, in the court’s opinion, be inequitable to disregard it;

(i) The value of any benefit that either party will lose the chance of acquiring;

The court must consider whether a clean break can be achieved immediately or over time.

The court will want to make sure any order made is fair. 

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How long does my partner have to pay maintenance?

Spousal maintenance orders can be made for a fixed period, a fixed period of time that can be extended, for a nominal sum for a specified period, or in extreme circumstances, for the rest of your joint lives, which is known as a joint lives order.

A joint-lives order is typically more appropriate after a long marriage or civil partnership where there is a large disparity in income/earning capacities.

The court has to consider whether a clean break is achievable in all cases and, therefore, will also consider whether a capitalised clean break is appropriate, i.e., a one-off lump sum payment rather than ongoing maintenance and a dismissal of maintenance claims. 

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How much maintenance will I receive?

There is no strict formula to calculate spousal/civil partner maintenance. It is quantified by applying the discretionary checklist set out in section 25 MCA 1973 as listed above. In broad terms, it is quantified by balancing the income/earning capacity of each party against their needs, considering all circumstances of the case. 

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Things to bear in mind

  • A maintenance order will automatically terminate if a payee remarries.
  • If the person receiving the maintenance payments starts to cohabit with a new partner, then this may be relevant in so far as it results in a reduction of the recipient’s needs.
  • Maintenance can be varied upwards or downwards by either party on the basis that there has been a considerable change in circumstances. 

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What Is Spousal Maintenance?

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You can contact our  Myerson Family team below if you have any more questions or would like more information regarding claiming spousal/civil partnership maintenance on divorce.

 0161 941 4000