Maintenance on divorce; how much and for how long?
One of the questions we are frequently asked by newly separated clients is how much maintenance they should either pay to or receive from their spouse. Where the maintenance is being paid in respect of children, this question is nowadays relatively straightforward, as for the vast majority of clients the answer will lie with the Child Maintenance Service calculations. The Child Maintenance Service has replaced what used to be the CSA function for all new cases.
However where there is no child maintenance or where the amount of child maintenance paid does not meet the outgoings of the possible recipient, for spouses or for civil partners, there remains the possibility of further maintenance, which family lawyers will refer to as Spousal Maintenance.
Whether or not spousal maintenance is going to be payable is not simply a matter of mathematics, but relates to the length of the marriage and the situations of the couple involved, where evidence shows that the decisions made in the marriage have led to financial need of one party at the end of the relationship.
In most cases, save those of significant wealth, the amount of Spousal Maintenance is not calculated by reference to anything other than need and an ability to meet that need. So there is no ready reckoner to help us here. What is required is an analysis of each spouse’s income and their reasonable outgoings. If the amount cannot be agreed, ultimately the court has the power to impose maintenance orders and the discretion of the courts in awarding maintenance is broad.
In cases where spousal maintenance is to be paid, the Court also has a duty to consider whether there should be an end date for payments. An end date will be set when the Court considers that the recipient can adjust to their new financial circumstances without undue hardship. This will often be as children get older and need less child care, or when a Spouse who has not worked for a period of time has been able to re-train or update their skills ready for employment. Where the Court considers it appropriate a court order can be made either extendable or non-extendable depending on the circumstances of the case.
Advising on issues of spousal maintenance is just one of the ways the team of Family Law experts at John Hodge Solicitors can help clients dealing with relationship breakdown. We offer all family law clients a free initial appointment.