Spousal maintenance may be payable on divorce from one spouse to another following during and/or on grant of Decree, particularly if there is a disparity between the parties’ incomes and the spouse with the lesser income can demonstrate a need.

Spousal maintenance is separate to child maintenance [link] which is payable in relation to the children, although your spouse may make the payments together.

The maintenance is usually paid monthly, either on a fixed term basis or for the remainder of the parties’ lives. Maintenance may be paid for a number of years, such as until a child starts secondary school or reaches the age of 18 or for a certain period to enable one spouse to retrain. Each case is considered on its individual circumstances.

Many couples would rather separate financial ties on divorce and in such circumstances, where one spouse has a valid claim for spousal maintenance, this can be capitalised meaning that they will receive a greater share of capital assets in return for surrendering a claim for maintenance.

1. How will I know if I am entitled to claim spousal maintenance?

This will depend on your and your spouse’s incomes and your respective income needs or expenditure. The court will expect a party to have taken steps to maximise their income where possible. There may be straightforward things you can consider, such as finding out whether you are eligible for tax credits or notifying the council if your partner has moved out which may reduce your council tax. You age and employability will all be considered.

2. If I am the higher earner, does this automatically mean that I will have to pay maintenance?

Just because you earn more money, you won’t necessarily have to make monthly payments to your spouse.

3. How long will I have to pay maintenance for?

This will vary depending on the circumstances of the case. It may be ordered that you should pay maintenance until the children have reached 18 or for a set period of time to enable your spouse to retrain to seek better employment. Although relatively rare, in some circumstances maintenance can be ordered on a joint lives basis and is therefore payable until either spouse dies.

4. My spouse has now moved in with someone else – do I still have to pay them maintenance?

Although the obligation to pay maintenance automatically stops if your spouse remarries, it does not necessarily stop if your spouse moves in with, or cohabits, with another person. This depends on how your financial agreement is worded. You can apply to the court to have your maintenance payments reduced if you think your spouse’s financial situation has changed. Please contact a member of our team if you would like further advice regarding this.

5. Can I apply to vary the spousal maintenance?

Yes, if your circumstances have changed, if you can show a need and demonstrate to the court that you have sought to mitigate your circumstances and it is affordable to the payor, you could seek an upward maintenance variation.

If the payments are unaffordable to you as the payor, there is a change in your personal circumstances, such as ill health or redundancy or your income has decreased you could seek a downward maintenance variation.

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