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What Is Spousal Maintenance?
Who Is Entitled To Spousal Maintenance?
Informal Spousal Maintenance Agreements

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What Is Spousal Maintenance?

Spousal maintenance is maintenance that is paid by a husband or a wife to their former spouse following a divorce and is in addition to the child maintenance.

Spousal maintenance is usually paid on a monthly basis and continues either for a defined period (term of years) or for the remainder of the parties’ life (known as a “joint lives order”). Spousal maintenance ends if the recipient remarries or if either party dies. It may be varied or dismissed by the courts on a change in circumstances.

Who Is Entitled To Spousal Maintenance?

When a couple separate whether one party is entitled to claim spousal maintenance from the other is a common concern. There are several factors that need to be considered. To establish whether you are likely to be entitled to spousal maintenance you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your financial needs and income potential? Can these needs be met without the support of your former spouse?
  • Have you been married for a long time and given up work to support your spouse or family by becoming the home maker?
  • Are you of an age where establishing a career, to deliver the kind of lifestyle you have been used to, would be difficult?
  • Would you be financially better off having a financial clean break and lump sum from your from your former spouse, rather than maintenance?
  • Are you prepared to take your case to court, if your former spouse will not agree to spousal maintenance?
  • Are you planning to re-marry? (if you do you will lose your right to spousal maintenance)

The conditions under which spousal maintenance might be paid vary, as every marriage varies. If a couple have been together for a long time and one party has given up work to run the home whilst the other has developed a career and been the family breadwinner there are arguments to say that the homemaker is entitled to financial support, in the form of spousal maintenance, if the marriage breaks down and on the basis that the spouse in need cannot support themselves financially from income they have coming in from other sources.

As is often the case with family law, every case is different. It is therefore important to take advice from a divorce and family lawyer. They will be able to consider your circumstances and advise on the likely success of your case.

Informal Spousal Maintenance Agreements

Many separating couples enter into informal financial settlement agreements which also prvoide for the spousal maintenance to be paid in lump sum amount. In such case, the couple normally informally agree to split capital assets like a house or savings in favour of the home maker, whilst the breadwinner, who has more potential to generate income and wealth on an ongoing basis takes a smaller share. In this case, spousal maintenance is deemed to have been capitalised, rather than being paid in monthly instalments.

In other cases, spousal maintenance is paid on a regular basis, intended as income to cover the living costs of the spouse receiving it.

If your former spouse is not willing to reach an agreement about the spousal maintenance you will need to ask the courts to consider your case and they will decide whether you are entitled to spousal maintenance. If they think so they will make a court order for spousal maintenance to be paid by your former spouse.

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