When a married couple or civil partners separate, one of the biggest worries is that instead of having two incomes to pay the bills there will only be one. Sometimes there can be a shortfall between what you have and what you need, with no immediate way of plugging the gap. This is where spousal maintenance becomes relevant because it provides a way of ensuring your former partner continues to support you until you are able to stand on your own two feet.
“Spousal maintenance means the money paid to you by your former spouse or civil partner to help you meet your income needs and cope with the financial upheaval caused when you divorce or dissolve a civil partnership” says Yashin. “It is for your benefit, to help you cope. It is entirely separate from child support or child maintenance, which is money paid to you for the benefit of your children”.
How do I get spousal maintenance?
There are two ways to get spousal maintenance: the first is to reach an agreement with your former spouse or civil partner that it should be paid and the amount you should receive; the second, if agreement cannot be reached, is to ask the court to intervene, determine how much you should receive and for how long.
It is sensible to reach an agreement out of court first because this will be quicker and cheaper. Talk to your solicitor about negotiating an agreement, potentially through mediation.
How much am I entitled to?
The amount of money you are entitled to will depend on your circumstances and on those of your former spouse or civil partner.
To assess what is needed, and to determine what your former partner can afford to pay, it is important that you both make a list of how much money you have coming in each month and how much you have to pay out. Based on these figures it should be possible to agree a payment schedule that works for you both. If not, the information contained in the list can be given to the court for an assessment to be made on your behalf.
What will happen if the court becomes involved?
It is possible to go to Court to seek a temporary order for maintenance which will be made initially to tide you over until the court is able to consider matters fully. It may be for a sum that is less than the court ultimately decides you are entitled to.
Where the court agrees that spousal maintenance is needed, the amount to be paid and the period for which payments should continue will be set out in a formal court order. This will usually last for a limited period because it is only intended to provide support until you are able to adjust to becoming financially independent.
Payments under a spousal maintenance order will automatically end if you remarry or enter a new civil partnership. They will also end if your former spouse or civil partner dies. It may be reduced or potentially end if you cohabit with another person for a set period of time, but not necessarily.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.