An Introduction to Spousal Maintenance on Divorce or Dissolution
Spousal maintenance is the payment of money by one person to another after a divorce or the dissolution of a civil partnership and following an assessment of the means and needs of each party. It is different to child maintenance which can potentially be paid in addition.
Spousal maintenance comes in the form of ongoing payments which are made on a periodic basis. This can be compared to a ‘clean break’ in which there is no such ongoing element after the final settlement has been made. Sometimes this can include a lump sum payment in which maintenance has been assessed and then capitalised into a particular amount.
The needs of the parties
Both the the party paying and the party wishing to receive have to be considered. Whether or not the paying party has the ability to pay a required amount and if so for how long should be carefully considered.
Why is it made?
When it comes to the division of assets on divorce or separation the court will look at all the relevant factors of each case. These include financial matters such as the earning capacity of each party as well as their assets, expenses and their standard of living as well as other issues such as who did what in the marriage or civil partnership. In other words, assessing issues such as who did what for any children and how much each earned in the workplace.
Quite naturally people usually want to know what the financial implications of the separation will be and it might sometimes be frustrating to hear that all of the circumstances will need to be considered before final figures can be worked out. But this really is necessary in these cases to try and get to the bottom of exactly where everybody stands.
When does it end?
Spousal maintenance can be for a fixed period or it can be for life. If it is the latter then it would come to an end on the death of either party. It would also come to an end if the person receiving the money remarries or enters into a civil partnership. Given that any spousal maintenance would come to an end with the death of the paying party it is sometimes worth considering insurance options to try and cover this situation arising.
What about cohabitation?
The fact that the person receiving maintenance starts cohabiting with someone else would not automatically bring spousal maintenance to an end unless the maintenance order had made that clear at the time. However, applications can be made to vary orders as circumstances change and this might well be something which might lead to a reconsideration.
As with many of the issues surrounding a separation, this topic can lead to stress, worry and upset for both parties. This is why it is always important to try and resolve disagreements with the consent of both parties if that is at all possible and only to see the sanction of the court making a final decision as a last resort.
Above all, it is something where attention to detail is particularly important when making an assessment of the various circumstances which can be relevant in this respect.
Campions Solicitors have substantial experience of these issues. If you would like further advice or wish to discuss in general please contact our Director Daniel Priest on DPriest@campions.co.uk.