What is Spousal Maintenance?

Spousal Maintenance | Family Law | Robertsons Solicitors

When two people who are married or in a civil partnership separate, consideration may be given to spousal maintenance.  It is designed to provide financial support each month to one partner which is paid for by the other partner.

How much is spousal maintenance?

There is no calculator which provides a fixed formula as to what the monthly amount is. It should be remembered that.  If you are going through a divorce or civil partnership dissolution, you should be aware that spousal maintenance is not always paid.  If there is such diversity between the parties’ income, then it may be something that is considered or ordered by the Court. It will only be paid if one partner ‘needs’ spousal maintenance and if the other partner can afford to pay it.

There is no set formula as to what the level of maintenance might be.  If spousal maintenance should be paid, it will be necessary to obtain financial information from both parties to understand their financial position.

How long will spousal maintenance be paid?

If spousal maintenance is ordered by the Court, there will be ‘trigger events’ that would bring the end to payments. For example it will automatically end upon the death or the remarriage of the person receiving it. Further examples of trigger events are the youngest child of the family turning 18 or when the family home is sold.

The purpose of a financial settlement is for the parties to achieve financial independence and more recentl, the Court has been reluctant to allow spousal maintenance payments to continue for too long, if it is ordered at all.  

Courts will sometimes order that payments are made on a ‘step-down basis’, for example a certain amount for 2 years and a lower amount for a third and final year.

Is spousal maintenance impacted by the reasons for divorce?

Many people consider that if there are allegations of unreasonable behaviour or adultery then that will affect the financial settlement or spousal maintenance payments. That is very rarely the case. Usually, the divorce proceedings and financial arrangements are kept entirely separate. The way that a Court will consider matters is by reviewing the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and factor that criteria into any decision This is known as the ‘section 25 criteria’. This includes:-

  • The income, earning capacity, property, and other financial resources which each of the parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future.
  • The financial needs, obligations, and responsibilities which each party has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future.
  • The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage.
  • The age of each party to the marriage and duration of the marriage.
  • Any disability of either party.
  • The contributions each of the parties has made or is likely in the foreseeable future to make.
  • In some circumstances, the conduct of the parties.
  • The value of any benefit that would be lost by divorce.

Can spousal maintenance payment amounts be varied?

If there are changes to personal circumstances which impact earning capacity or financial circumstances then spousal maintenance can be varied. An application would have to be made to the Court and it should be remembered that spousal maintenance is capable of being varied either upwards or downwards.

If I pay child maintenance, do I have to pay spousal maintenance?

These are two separate elements. Child maintenance is a regular payment to support children of separated parents governed by the Child Maintenance Service and is a statutory provision. Spousal maintenance is an amount that is paid to an ex-partner for financial support and does not include support for the children. Therefore, any spousal maintenance payment is in addition to child maintenance.

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