Essential Terms for Understanding Spousal Maintenance

Essential terms for understanding spousal maintenance

When explaining spousal maintenance, there are a number of terms which need to be understood in order to avoid any confusion.

Joint lives order

This is where there is an order to pay maintenance which lasts until either party dies or until the person being paid remarries or enters into a civil partnership or until the court makes a further order.

Term order

This is an alternative to the joint lives order and involves an obligation to pay maintenance for a fixed period of time.The trend in recent times has been away from joint lives to term orders although both are still made in particular circumstances.

Bar on extending term orders

One of the options which is available when making a term order is to impose a bar on extending it beyond the term. This is sometimes called a s28(1A) bar referring to the specific section of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 from where it is derived.

Clean break

This is where both parties can walk away from the settlement with no further ongoing financial ties. The possibility of a clean break is something which the court is bound to consider on divorce or dissolution.

Nominal maintenance

A nominal maintenance order means just what it says. A nominal sum is payable but in reality the reason for this is to keep open the possibility of returning to court and increasing the amount if the circumstances change. This stands in contrast to a clean break.


Where the party who will be potentially receiving maintenance is cohabiting with someone else this doesn’t in itself end the possibility of maintenance. However, it might be something which affects the amount and duration of maintenance since all the financial circumstances of the parties will be taken into account.

Civil partnerships

It shouldn’t be forgotten that the remedies and issues which arise with marriage between people of the opposite sex also apply to those who have had civil partnerships and same-sex marriages.

Maintenance pending suit

This is also known as interim maintenance and is an order for spousal maintenance which is made before things have been fully determined. In other words, just because the calculation of the final amounts may take time doesn’t mean that maintenance can’t be paid in the meantime.

Insurance of maintenance payments

It may well be worth considering insurance against maintenance payments coming to an end. This might be through simple failure to pay or through the obligations coming to an end due to, for example, the death of the payer. The specific insurance options can vary and will depend upon the circumstances of the case.

Contacting Campions

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

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