Spousal maintenance is a form of maintenance that is paid by one spouse to another, usually when these spouses have separated. This maintenance is paid in its own right and it is a standalone payment from any agreement or payment that is made with respect to child benefit payments.
Types of Spousal Maintenance
There are four main types of spousal maintenance agreements:
- The interim maintenance order, which is sometimes known as the maintenance pending suit.
- The term maintenance order, the joint lives maintenance order and the nominal maintenance order.
- The interim maintenance order is one that is payable by one spouse to another spouse while proceedings to determine the true financial outgoings are ongoing.
- The term maintenance order is a maintenance that is paid for a defined term.
There is a great deal of flexibility on the defined terms that are available to choose from, such as a year, 5 years, until a child has reached a certain age or until the party that receives the spousal maintenance begins cohabiting with someone else.
These terms can be set as extendable or non-extendable terms, depending on the agreement that has been made. The joint lives maintenance order is one that sees the spousal maintenance payments continue until the death of either party, until the party
receiving the payments is remarried or until a different order has been set by the court.
A nominal maintenance order is one where the receiving person will be entitled to a nominal payment of £1 every year, but this not actually paid.
The reason for this is a legal obligation to set in place the ability for the receiver to apply for a substantive order.
A nominal maintenance order can be set for a term basis or it can be adhered to on the lines of a joint lives basis. Although most commonly paid from husband to wife, that is not necessarily the case.
Spousal maintenance is based on both incomes, ability to earn money, previous lifestyles and most importantly, need. It is not about equalising incomes. There is no exact formula, but here is some reading //www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed33597
Spousal Maintenance – Case Merits
When couples split, there is no automatic reason why a spouse should maintenance order from the other party. This is a matter for courts to decide on the individual merit of each case.
If both parties are working or there is a similarity between their income from sources such as wages, income, tax credits, child maintenance and benefits, it is unlikely that a court would decide to impose a spousal maintenance order.
One alternative option for a court to make is to provide one party with a greater share of the capital, perhaps savings or property, in order to reduce the outgoings that they have, which reduces the need for maintenance to be paid to them.
If it is not possible to engineer a clean break without causing undue hardship to one of the parties, it is up to the court to determine what the undue hardship will amount to. There is a need for both parties to produce budgets and if there is a shortfall in one of the parties’ budgets, it may be that there is a case for spousal maintenance to be offered.
There is then a focus on whether the other party has a level of income that can sustain their own budget and also cater for the shortfall in the income of the other spouse. The court cannot only decide on the value of support that should be provided, they can provide a time-frame for the maintenance to be offered.
The terms set can often differ depending on the beliefs of the judge of the court, so there is not a universal approach across the United Kingdom as to how these maintenance agreements should be constructed.
There are many different things to take on board when agreeing a maintenance plan and there are different schools of thought. Some people prefer a formulaic approach, as this will provide consistency in the agreements. However, this form of approach will often lack the flexibility that is required when looking after people’s everyday lives and providing them with the financial support that is required.
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