Spousal maintenance is the payment made to the former spouse after getting a divorce. There are two types of maintenance orders.
- Term order – Payments made for a set number of years
- Joint lives order – Payments made until one of the parties dies
When does Spousal Maintenance become necessary?
It becomes necessary in the following situations
- When one party does not have sufficient means to take care of his/her daily needs
- When the income or earning capacity of one party is significantly higher than the other
- When one party wasn’t employed throughout the marriage (perhaps to take care of the children) and therefore is unable to become self-sufficient immediately
When determining the duration of spousal maintenance, the Court will consider how long it would take for the receiving party to become self-sufficient. In some cases, spousal maintenance may decrease with time as the receiving party’s income gradually increases.
How much Spousal Maintenance needs to be paid?
The UK’s legislation has no specific formula to calculate the amount of Spousal Maintenance. It varies from case to case and depending on the facts, the Court can choose from a range of orders.
When determining the amount of spousal maintenance, the Court will consider
- The financial needs and commitments of both parties
- The financial needs of any children who are under the age of 18
- The standard of living of both parties during the marriage
- The income of both parties
- Whether there is a chance of increase or decrease in income
- Whether both parties are currently earning their full capacity
In most situations, the parties and the Court would prefer a ‘Clean Break’. A clean break is when one party pays the other a lump sum at once and becomes free from any further obligations.
When does Spousal Maintenance end?
Spousal maintenance will automatically end when
- One of the two parties dies
- The receiving party remarries
- The receiving party cohabits with another person (certain conditions apply)
- The youngest child in the family reaches the age of 18 or 21; or has finished secondary or university education
Note: For a long marriage, spousal maintenance will usually be a joint lives order. It means that the maintenance will end only when either of them dies. In certain situations, it ends when the other party begins receiving pension.
What is Nominal Maintenance Order?
In some situations, it may not be appropriate to give either a large sum or continued maintenance. In such situations, a nominal maintenance order can come into force.
A very small amount (maybe just one or two pounds per year) is paid to the receiving party. It is done just to keep the case open. The receiving party may currently be in a position to take care of their needs. But if their circumstances change and they fall into need, they can request the Court for maintenance. Nominal maintenance Order acts as a safety net and is especially important when you have dependent children.
Can you appeal once the Court gives an order?
After the Court gives the order, both parties have the right to appeal. They can appeal to vary or suspend the order.
A party can apply to vary the order if their income has significantly reduced or if the income of the receiving party has significantly increased.
A party can apply to suspend the order if, for instance, they are out of work.
Note: When applying for variation or suspension, both parties must fully disclose their financial situation and must inform the other party about any change of circumstances.
The receiving party can also appeal to extend the term of maintenance order. However, they must submit the application before the term ends. If you need any guidance with the application or the process, get in touch with our experienced child and family solicitor.