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Spousal Maintenance

Spousal Maintenance is a regular payment that is made by a former spouse following a separation or divorce. Our dedicated Spousal Maintenance Lawyers in Cheshire can help you get the support you deserve by providing tailored, expert legal advice.

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Spousal Maintenance Payments Solicitors

Spousal maintenance is designed to help financially support the lower-income party and depending on circumstances can be a solution for the short or long term.

 

Spousal Maintenance Family Law Solicitors

At Rowlinsons our friendly family law department has many years of experience in advising divorcing couples on spousal maintenance.

The head of our family law team is not only an expert family solicitor but is also trained in collaborative law and family mediation which means you get a highly qualified, professional team on your side taking care of every technical legal aspect while remaining sensitive to your personal needs.

Whether you want long-term financial security with a joint lives spousal maintenance order or the finality of a clean break we will ensure your experience is as straightforward and stress-free as possible.

For help with all matters concerning spousal maintenance get in touch today or arrange a call back. We also have meeting facilities in North Wales to provide a welcoming, confidential space for our family law clients.

 

What is spousal maintenance?

Spousal maintenance is an ongoing payment made by the financially stronger party in a divorce to help the one with fewer financial resources pay for their living costs if they can’t otherwise support themselves.

The courts are frequently tasked with the difficult question of whether maintenance should be paid to a former spouse or civil partner following divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership and, if so, how much and for how long.

Following a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership, where a former spouse or civil partner has insufficient income to support themselves, the financially stronger person within the relationship may agree, or may be ordered, to pay ongoing maintenance payments.

A lot of couples prefer to achieve a clean break so that they can each be financially independent. The Court have an overriding objective to consider whether a clean break Order is possible. In some situations it isn’t possible to achieve complete financial independence.  In these circumstances, the question of spousal maintenance will need to be considered.

Spousal maintenance remains, and no doubt always will be, a highly contentious issue. You should always seek expert legal advice where spousal maintenance might be involved.

If an agreement on the amount or term can’t be reached through divorce proceedings or mediation a court can make an order specifying the amount and duration for payments.

 

Funding outgoings after separation

Separating finances is one of the most challenging aspects of a divorce. Suddenly, having to fund two households with the same income used for just one is especially difficult. 

One spouse may stay in the marital home while the other gets their own place. Outgoings that were once shared are now a separate obligation for each. This means separating spouses will need to sort out how bills and finances will be dealt with in the meantime before the financial settlement is agreed.

The first step is to identify the extent of the outgoings for each separate household. This would include the rent or mortgage and utility bills as well as other reasonable living expenses such as food, clothing, and anything else deemed essential.

There are different options for funding financial responsibilities after separating. Using a joint bank account for outgoings can be a simple solution, but perhaps not always suitable. This only works if the split is amicable and there is trust between the couple.

The risk is that one party might make large withdrawals without agreement or misuse an overdraft. In this case, couples may want to close the joint account and open individual accounts to manage their outgoings.

 

Short-term spousal maintenance

Another option would be for the higher earner to pay spousal maintenance directly to their ex-partner to cover his or her expenses. This amount may be agreed between the two, taking into account the relevant expenses. If you cannot reach an agreement on spousal maintenance the Family Court can make a short-term spousal maintenance order known as a maintenance pending suit.

We can advise about short-term and long-term spousal maintenance options during divorce proceedings. Our expert team know how to navigate spousal maintenance issues at all stages to help the lower-income spouse establish financial security while protecting the interests of both parties. 

 

How is spousal maintenance calculated?

Working out how much maintenance should be paid is a careful balancing act between the needs, resources, and obligations of each party.

There is no strict formula for calculating spousal maintenance. How much you will have to pay or receive will depend on a range of factors and the court can use its discretion when considering these.

No rule says income should be divided equally. If a former spouse believes they will get half the income of their higher earning ex, they should lower their expectations. The court will strive for a fair outcome, but fairness does not mean a 50/50 split.

In the long term, the amount of spousal maintenance paid could vary from the temporary spousal maintenance you received at first depending on how other assets are distributed in the financial settlement.

 

How much spousal maintenance will be paid?

The amount of spousal maintenance to be paid depends on the recipient’s reasonable expenses, current income and earning potential. The court will factor in the payer’s net income, needs and financial obligations.

They will also look at the recipients’ ability to generate income and any other unearned income such as child support, universal credit, child benefit, and any assets or investments that could generate an income.

The potential earnings of a spousal maintenance recipient is a touchy subject. It will be expected that the recipient tries their best to increase their income to meet their own financial needs.

On the one hand, a court will not expect the main caregiver with young children to work full-time. But on the other hand, once the kids are school age, it is reasonable to expect them to find a job that fits around school hours, particularly if the other parent can deal with childcare too.

Typically, payments will be decided as a set monthly amount, although they can also be expressed as a percentage of the payer’s income.

 

Who is entitled to spousal maintenance?

Either party in a divorce can apply for spousal maintenance. The purpose of spousal maintenance is to ensure that the financial needs of the lower-income spouse are met until they can reasonably be expected to cover these themselves.

Until now, the financially weaker spouse may have been unable to generate an income for any number of reasons including supporting their spouse by running the household. This could be the partner who chose to stay at home to raise the children instead of pursuing a career and is either just starting out again in the world of work, taking time to retrain or does not have their own source of income yet.

If the main caregiver is still busy raising children, this will curtail their ability to find gainful employment to cover all their expenses. Likewise, someone with a disability may not be able to work either.

 

How is spousal maintenance distributed?

Spousal maintenance can be paid on a regular basis, for example monthly or as a lump sum. The payment of a lump sum, or capitalized spousal maintenance, can achieve a a clean break and that closes any further applications for spousal maintenance and gives finality to the process, which can be desirable in some cases.

Once it’s been agreed that ongoing spousal maintenance should be paid, the next step is determining the duration of payments and the nature of the spousal maintenance order.

Depending on the type of spousal maintenance order it could last a lifetime or for a fixed term.

 

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What is spousal maintenance?

The courts are frequently tasked with the difficult question of whether maintenance should be paid to a former spouse or civil partner following divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership and, if so, how much and for how long.

Following a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership, where a former spouse or civil partner has insufficient income to support themselves, the financially stronger person within the relationship may agree, or may be ordered, to pay ongoing maintenance payments.

A lot of couples prefer to achieve a clean break so that they can each be financially independent. The Court have an overriding objective to consider whether a clean break Order is possible. In some situations it isn’t possible to achieve complete financial independence.  In these circumstances, the question of spousal maintenance will need to be considered.

Spousal maintenance remains, and no doubt always will be, a highly contentious issue. You should always seek expert legal advice where spousal maintenance might be involved.

For more information about spousal maintenance, or if you want to organise an initial no obligation telephone call, please telephone Rowlinsons Solicitors and ask to speak to the Family Department.

How much is spousal maintenance?

In situations where spousal maintenance is to be ordered, there is no set formula for calculating how much spousal maintenance should be. The amount of maintenance will vary on a case-by-case basis. Much will depend on the parties’ financial needs, the extent of their existing financial resources and how much they could potentially earn in the future.

Typically, payments will be decided as a set monthly amount, although they can also be expressed as a percentage of the payer’s income.

For more information about spousal maintenance, or if you want to organise an initial no obligation telephone call, please telephone Rowlinsons Solicitors and ask to speak to the Family Department.

For how long is spousal maintenance payable?

Spousal maintenance can be payable either for a fixed term of years or until a specific event, such as the youngest child reaching a certain age for example. In some situations, spousal maintenance can be payable for the parties’ joint lives.

Where spousal maintenance is payable on a joint-lives basis, this means that maintenance is payable either until the person paying, or the one receiving it, passes away.

There can be included in a spousal maintenance Order certain other provisions that it should end earlier than the final end date, for example in the event that the receiving party gets remarried. It is important to fully understand the terms of a spousal maintenance order, when payments will come to an end, and whether they can be extended and we would always recommend that expert legal advice is obtained whenever spousal maintenance is a possible consideration.

The likely duration of spousal maintenance will, of course, depend upon the individual financial circumstances of the couple involved. Spousal maintenance Order’s payable on a joint-lives basis have become less commonplace, although there are still situations where such Orders are made. In recent times, the overriding objective of the courts has been towards achieving a clean break as soon as financial independence can be achieved.

For more information about spousal maintenance, or if you want to organise an initial no obligation telephone call, please telephone Rowlinsons Solicitors on 01928 735333 and ask to speak with the family department.

Can spousal maintenance payments be varied?

The law recognises that it would be unfair to set an order for spousal maintenance payments in stone, particularly given the possibility that the parties’ circumstances can easily change. By way of example, a paying party may lose their job or the receiving party may come into significant wealth. It would be very rare for a condition to be put in place preventing the ability to vary a spousal maintenance Order.

Most Orders made for spousal maintenance to be paid can therefore be varied. In the first instance, the parties are encouraged to try and agree a variation between themselves, or with the assistance of a solicitor or mediator. Where agreement cannot be reached, the parties can apply back to the court for a variation of the original order. There is a wide discretion of the court to vary an order, and applications of this type do carry some risk as there is no guarantee what a Judge may do, whether increase, decrease or cease entirely.

In the case of Waggott v Waggott [2018] EWCA Civ 727, the Court of Appeal rejected the wife’s application to increase her spousal maintenance payments. The court in that case however accepted the husband’s cross-appeal on the joint-lives term, ordering instead that the maintenance come to an end in 3 years time.

Taking early legal advice on the prospects of successfully increasing or decreasing spousal maintenance payments is crucial, enabling the parties to make an informed decision.

For more information about spousal maintenance, or if you want to organise an initial no obligation telephone call, please telephone Rowlinsons Solicitors and ask to speak to the Family Department.

 

Spousal Maintenance Solicitors

Spousal maintenance is a complicated matter. The best place to start is to identify your reasonable financial needs with help from your family law team. With Rowlinsons you get straightforward, expert advice to help you navigate your spousal maintenance claim. We’ll guide you through all aspects of spousal maintenance in England and Wales including finding out what you’re entitled to, negotiating or varying terms, applying for spousal maintenance, and chasing up non-payment.

 

What are the different types of spousal maintenance?

Spousal maintenance can be payable either for a fixed term of years or until a specific event, such as the youngest child reaching a certain age for example. In some situations, spousal maintenance can be payable for the parties’ joint lives. 

Where spousal maintenance is payable on a joint-lives basis, this means that maintenance is payable either until the person paying, or the one receiving it, passes away. 

There can be included in a spousal maintenance Order certain other provisions that it should end earlier than the final end date, for example in the event that the receiving party gets remarried. It is important to fully understand the terms of a spousal maintenance order, when payments will come to an end, and whether they can be extended and we would always recommend that expert legal advice is obtained whenever spousal maintenance is a possible consideration. 

The likely duration of spousal maintenance will, of course, depend upon the individual financial circumstances of the couple involved. Spousal maintenance Order’s payable on a joint-lives basis have become less commonplace, although there are still situations where such Orders are made. In recent times, the overriding objective of the courts has been towards achieving a clean break as soon as financial independence can be achieved.

Types of spousal maintenance scheduling include:

Lifetime order

Spousal maintenance can last for the parties’ joint lives with a lifetime order. This usually applies when there is a large difference in income, the parties are older and have been married a long time, one party has been out of work a long time, there are no realistic prospects on party being able to support themselves or where there are young children, disabilities and other factors making it unrealistic to expect the recipient to return to work in the future.

Fixed term order

Spousal maintenance can also be set for a fixed term. A fixed-term order will cover a certain number of years and can be extendable or non-extendable. This is often applied where marriages have been shorter, or the children have flown the nest, or where it is anticipated within a period of time the financially weaker party will be able to support themselves. The term can last until a specific event for example the recipient drawing down a pension or getting back into paid employment.

If there is a ‘bar’ on the fixed-term maintenance order the duration of the term that spousal maintenance is paid cannot be extended. This is called a non-extendable maintenance order.

Nominal spousal maintenance order

In cases where the family court views that the claim should be kept open as a safety net for the recipient, it may put in place a nominal spousal maintenance order. This is where a nominal amount (e.g. £1.00) is paid annually. Often the nominal order will be made for a limited time, for example, until the children come of age, or a set date in the future. It means if there is a dramatic change in circumstances, the recipient still has an open claim. However this does not achieve a clean break and the potential for future income claims remains open.

 

Can the amount of spousal maintenance be changed?

While maintenance is being paid there is a possibility to review and vary the spousal maintenance order. If there is a change of circumstances during the time that spousal maintenance is being paid you or your ex-partner could ask for the terms of the order to be reviewed and apply for them to be varied. Either party may ask for the amount to be increased, decreased or even stopped. You can also apply for spousal maintenance to be capitalised which means being awarded a lump sum or granted pension income instead of spousal maintenance.

The law recognises that it would be unfair to set an order for spousal maintenance payments in stone, particularly given the possibility that the parties’ circumstances can easily change. By way of example, a paying party may lose their job or the receiving party may come into significant wealth. It would be very rare for a condition to be put in place preventing the ability to vary a spousal maintenance Order.

Most Orders made for spousal maintenance to be paid can therefore be varied. In the first instance, the parties are encouraged to try and agree a variation between themselves, or with the assistance of a solicitor or mediator. Where agreement cannot be reached, the parties can apply back to the court for a variation of the original order. There is a wide discretion of the court to vary an order, and applications of this type do carry some risk as there is no guarantee what a Judge may do, whether increase, decrease or cease entirely. 

In the case of Waggott v Waggott [2018] EWCA Civ 727, the Court of Appeal rejected the wife’s application to increase her spousal maintenance payments. The court in that case however accepted the husband’s cross-appeal on the joint-lives term, ordering instead that the maintenance come to an end in 3 years time.

Taking early legal advice on the prospects of successfully increasing or decreasing spousal maintenance payments is crucial, enabling the parties to make an informed decision.

 

Choosing a ‘clean break’ over ongoing spousal maintenance

Paying out a lump sum to the recipient has the advantage of making both parties financially independent from each other. This is known in divorce as a ‘clean break,’ and is seen as an advantage to many couples as it means there are no further financial ties between each other. However, the disadvantage is that the lump sum cannot be increased in the future when perhaps circumstances have changed.

At Rowlinsons, our team of experienced family law solicitors understands your case is unique. We’ll talk you through your spousal maintenance options so you can safeguard your financial future.

 

How do you apply for spousal maintenance?

Spousal maintenance is dealt with within the financial settlement process. An agreement can be made between the divorcing couple which means the matter can be resolved quite quickly without having to enter into stressful court proceedings.

If a couple is unable to come to such an agreement, they may need to apply to a family court. The court has the power to make a spousal maintenance order if it concludes that this is appropriate.

 

Can you claim spousal maintenance post-divorce?

Spousal maintenance is meant to help the lower-earning spouse meet their financial needs when their ex has considerably more money.

Any financial issues should be settled before the divorce is finalised and that’s why spousal maintenance is normally negotiated within divorce proceedings.

In theory, you could apply for spousal maintenance after divorce if you do not have a clean break order in place, but it would depend on your circumstances whether or not you have a valid claim.

 

Contact Our Spousal Maintenance Lawyers

Rowlinsons Solicitors can help you reach the best outcome, whatever your circumstances. Our family law specialists are accredited members of the Law Society's Family Law panel. Our team is approachable, friendly and professional.

We always aim to resolve disputes amicably and out of court, but, if litigation becomes necessary, we can deal with the courts for you with experience and knowledge.

When you choose Rowlinsons for advice regarding spousal maintenance following a divorce or separation, you always receive the best legal expertise on hand no matter what the situation. We always provide exceptional levels of client care, and work closely with our clients to find the best outcomes.

With expert Family Law & Divorce Solicitors based in our Frodsham and Sutton Weaver offices, we are recognised as one of the leading teams of Divorce Solicitors in Cheshire. We regularly help clients throughout the Northwest region including St Helens, Widnes, Warrington, Chester, and Northwich. We are able to act for clients right across England and Wales, so contact our team today.