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What is Spousal Maintenance and How Much am I Entitled to?

Posted on 31st October 2020 by Goodwins Family Law Solicitors

Divorce is challenging enough without the uncertain question of whether or not you’re entitled to spousal maintenance payments – or even whether you might find yourself obligated to pay it. 

To help make things clearer, here are some commonly asked questions about spousal maintenance payments following a divorce, and what it might mean for couples living in England & Wales. 

What if my partner is reluctant to divorce

What is spousal maintenance? 

Spousal maintenance is also known as spousal support or spousal periodical payments, and refers to payments made by someone to their ex-spouse during or after a divorce. It usually occurs when one divorced party finds themself in a financially difficult position with insufficient income following a divorce – for example, they have no job or work part-time, and cannot cover their day-to-day needs. Spousal maintenance is not an automatic entitlement and depends on the financial circumstances of both parties after a divorce. Payments are usually made every month, and the purpose is to help one divorced party meet their ongoing financial needs, within reason. 

How is spousal maintenance different to child maintenance? 

Spousal maintenance is entirely different to child maintenance. Firstly, the spousal maintenance payments are intended for use by an ex-spouse and not necessarily in support of children. 

Secondly, spousal maintenance is dealt with by the courts while child support is arranged by the Child Maintenance Service. 

Thirdly, in cases of spousal maintenance, the income, capacity for income, and the financial needs of the receiving party are all a factor, as is the paying party’s financial ability to pay. In other words, there is no set formula for determining the spousal maintenance amount, and the amount may also change if circumstances change. However, in the case of child maintenance, the receiving party’s financial status is irrelevant and the payments are calculated purely on the paying party’s gross income. Child maintenance is also calculated by a formula. 

Who is entitled to spousal maintenance? 

The more financially vulnerable spouse is usually the receiver of spousal maintenance, though this is not always guaranteed and will be determined by the courts. The entitlement and exact amount of maintenance will also depend on the income or anticipated income of the more financially vulnerable party. Courts may ask this party to predict their future outgoings so that the financial need can be calculated. To determine what your individual spouse divorce benefits may be, it’s wise to seek the counsel of a specialist legal advisor who can assess your case. 

How much spousal maintenance am I entitled to? 

If you’re wondering how spousal maintenance will be calculated, it is very much determined on a case-by-case basis – in other words, there’s no formula. The courts will assess the personal and financial circumstances of each divorced party to determine the exact amount of spousal support someone is entitled to, and how long they may be entitled to it. Both of these orders could alter depending on changing circumstances of both parties in the future. It helps to obtain specialist legal advice throughout this time. 

Why do I have to pay spousal maintenance? 

During marriage, spouses support each other financially and share assets. In certain circumstances, this spousal support is a duty expected to continue after divorce, particularly if one spouse has not worked for periods of the marriage, or has been working part-time. Upon divorce, this can leave one spouse in a financially vulnerable position that does not cover their day-to-day needs – therefore, there may be a legal obligation for the financially stronger spouse to offer support after divorce. 

How long will I have to pay spousal maintenance? 

The length of time that spousal maintenance has to be paid for will depend on several factors. Sometimes, an agreement will be reached between parties to stop maintenance payments after a certain length of time. Other times, the maintenance payments will end when one spouse dies or remarries, otherwise known as ‘joint lives’ maintenance. Parties can also go through the courts to stop the payments if the recipient’s financial situation changes in a favourable way, or if the payer’s financial situation changes in an unfavourable way. 

My ex-spouse is cohabiting but not remarried: can I stop paying maintenance? 

In some cases, your ex-spouse may be cohabiting with a new partner without being married to them. This is not a clear-cut situation, as there may not be an obvious way to assess how much financial support your ex-spouse is receiving from their new partner. You may however have a case for a reduction or termination of the spousal maintenance that you are paying – consult a family lawyer for specialist advice on your individual case. 

Have further questions about spousal maintenance? Here at Goodwins Family Law Solicitors, we provide professional advice and representation for all divorce matters. Whether you wish to make a spousal support arrangement, or are seeking to contest an arrangement already made, our family lawyers will treat your case with care and sensitivity. Though based near London, we handle cases on national and international levels, so get in touch today.  

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