There is a popular misconception that the payer needs to pay spousal maintenance pursuant to a joint lives order until the death, remarriage or cohabitation of his or her ex-spouse.

Historically, joint lives orders were made to protect the financially weaker party post-divorce when there was sufficient uncertainty surrounding the ability of the financially weaker party to become financially independent due.

For example, to the need to care for children of the family during their minority.

Many payers find themselves in the invidious position of paying spousal maintenance many years after the breakdown of the marriage.

However, it is possible to apply to the court to:

  • Discharge the spousal maintenance order.
  • Vary the spousal maintenance order.
  • Substitute spousal maintenance with a lump sum order, property adjustment order, or a pension sharing order.

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Termination of spousal maintenance orders

The Family Court has a very wide-ranging discretion to terminate and or vary orders pursuant to section 31 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

First, consideration is given to the welfare of any minor children.

The court will consider whether there has been any significant change in circumstances to merit a cessation or alteration of payments after considering section 25 factors such as:

  • The parties' respective ages and length of the marriage
  • The parties' respective capital and income resources and the likelihood of being able to improve these
  • The standard of living during the marriage
  • The financial needs of the parties
  • Health of the parties
  • The contributions each party has made or continues to make for the children of the family.

The court has a duty to assess whether a clean break order is possible to terminate payments. It will also assess whether the payee can adjust without undue hardship to the ending of spousal maintenance payments.

A level of hardship may be considered reasonable.

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An application to discharge

An application to discharge or vary a joint lives maintenance order does not enable the payee to have a "second bite of the cherry" and ask for the same level of orders that could have been made on divorce.

At Myerson, our family law solicitors understand that separation and divorce is an emotional and confusing experience, and the divorce process can seem daunting.

We provide a personal service that allows you to focus on your emotional needs whilst we deal with your legal needs.

We have links with local therapists who we can put you in touch with for additional emotional support.

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Contact Our Family Lawyers

If you need professional legal advice regarding spousal maintenance orders, please contact Myerson Solicitors' Family Law Team on: