According to a recent report carried out by an international law firm, the English courts are of the most generous in the world when it comes to awarding spousal maintenance.

The analysis included looking to legislation and case law across 16 countries to provide a spectrum of spousal maintenance, ranging from lifetime maintenance to no maintenance at all, post-divorce.

There is no exact science when it comes to calculating spousal maintenance or indeed in determining whether one party is entitled to it. In England, the courts must have consideration for section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and carefully assess whether one party has a “need” for that maintenance. It is therefore common, in cases where there is a large disparity in income, for there to be some form of spousal maintenance upon divorce.

The court has a very wide discretion to make generous awards for the financially weaker party. However, in recent years, there has certainly been a shift in judicial attitudes and more of an expectation for the financially weaker party to achieve financial independence.

Despite the greater judicial appetite for ex-spouses to provide for themselves, the report concluded that the maintenance awards in the English courts are still “close to the dependency end” when compared with other jurisdictions.

According to the report, those countries which were not very generous included Israel, the UAE, Finland, Japan and Russia. Meanwhile, those financially weaker spouses in England & Wales, California, Singapore, Ireland and India can expect to receive ongoing maintenance after divorce. This can pose an issue when drafting pre-nuptial agreements where one party is British and the other party from a country whose laws are less generous when it comes to determining spousal maintenance.

International couples will need to carefully consider where they issue divorce proceedings to ensure the best outcome for them. The vast difference in jurisdictional approaches often means that that there can be costly legal arguments to determine which country the divorce proceeds, before negotiations regarding a financial settlement have even begun.

Our family law solicitors at Myerson are specialists in spousal maintenance and international family law. We also have extensive experience in drafting mirror pre-nuptial agreements where parties are from different countries. If you require any assistance, please call 0161 941 4000.

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