Spousal maintenance is a regular payment made by someone to their ex-spouse or civil partner. It will only be ordered to be paid where someone is unable to support themselves.
It is different to the maintenance payments made in respect of children and is intended to support the spouse to a reasonable standard.
When is spousal maintenance paid?
There is no automatic right to spousal maintenance, however where a spouse needs ongoing financial support that cannot be provided by a clean break, the court may order monthly maintenance payments to be made.
If a marriage or civil partnership was fairly brief, then spousal maintenance may only be ordered for a short time. However, if the marriage was lengthy or if one spouse cannot work, the payments may continue for life, although this is fairly unusual.
It is possible to insure spousal maintenance payments so that in the event that the spouse making the payments dies, the spouse receiving maintenance will receive a payout that they can use for continuing support.
Calculation of spousal maintenance
The amount ordered to be paid will be based on reasonable financial needs. The court will look at the anticipated future expenditure of each party in coming to a decision.
If one party has given up a career to raise children and their ability to earn has been diminished by this, then the court may take this into account and decide that lifelong payments are appropriate.
Alternatively, the court may consider that a period of a few years may be enough for someone to retrain or restart their career.
The maintenance payments can be altered, either upwards or downwards, in the future if either party’s circumstances change. If the paying party loses their job, the payments could be suspended for a period until a new position is found.
If the receiving party finds a job, then the maintenance payments may be reduced or ended if the court considers that there would not be undue hardship.
Both parties are obligated to inform each other of any significant change in their financial or other relevant circumstances.
A nominal maintenance order may be made in case one party’s circumstances substantially change so that they can no longer support themselves. In this event, they would have the option to ask the court to vary the order to provide them with enough maintenance to cover their reasonable living costs.
When will spousal maintenance payments end?
If no end date for payments is specified, then they will terminate when either party dies or if the party in receipt of the payments remarries or enters into a civil partnership. Living with someone else is not necessarily enough to end the payments, although it may be a persuasive argument in favour of this.