- about us
- why choose us
- contact us
In England and Wales, spousal maintenance is awarded by the family court to be paid by the spouse with the higher income to the spouse with the lower income when a couple divorces or a civil partnership is dissolved.
It is only awarded if one party cannot support themselves without payments from the other. The entitlement to spousal maintenance is determined by factors such as the duration of the marriage or partnership, the income and assets of each party, and their ability to manage financially without spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance can be awarded for a specified term or for life in some cases, and it may be terminated if the recipient remarries or enters a new civil partnership. Other triggers for the cessation of spousal maintenance can include the recipient cohabiting with another person as husband and wife, the children of the family reaching a certain age, or any other date agreed by the parties or ordered by the court.
There is no formula to calculate spousal maintenance - the amount and duration of spousal maintenance is subject to negotiation and the circumstances of each case. In most cases, it is based on the reasonable needs of the recipient and the payer’s ability to pay. The parties’ respective monthly incomes and expenses are looked at carefully to determine the quantum of maintenance.
If a spousal maintenance order is made by the court and the paying spouse fails to pay it, the recipient can issue court proceedings to enforce the payment. The paying party can also apply to the court for the maintenance to be reduced or ended if there has been a change in circumstances, such as loss of employment. However, if the paying spouse simply stops paying without a court order allowing for the cessation/reduction of spousal maintenance, the paying party can be held in breach of the court order and may be liable to pay maintenance arrears, interest on the unpaid amount, and costs. In extreme cases, the paying spouse could be committed to prison for non-payment. If the paying spouse lives abroad, there are reciprocal arrangements in some foreign countries for enforcing the payment of maintenance, but this process can be slow.
Before court proceedings are issued by either party to enforce, vary, or stop maintenance, it is always advisable to attempt to settle the matter by agreement by attending mediation or negotiating via solicitors.
For further information and advice on this issue, and other family law issues, please contact us for a free initial consultation on 01992 306 616 or 0207 956 2740 or email us.Back to Law Articles