When you divorce or dissolve a civil partnership one of you may agree to pay regular spousal maintenance payments to your ex-partner. Rebecca Patience, family lawyer at Harrison Drury solicitors, answers some frequently asked questions on the subject
Q: My husband and I are getting a divorce, this will leave me in a vulnerable financial position. My solicitor has mentioned spousal maintenance payments, what are they?
A: Spousal maintenance payments are paid by a husband or wife to their former spouse following separation.
The payments are designed to support the person in a financially weaker position and to assist them while they adjust to their new financial position. They are also used to ensure final financial arrangements are fair.
They are only paid when one partner cannot support themselves financially without ongoing support, following separation. The amount of maintenance paid depends on how much you need to live on, how much income you have and how much you could potentially earn in the future.
Q: I have just started making maintenance payments to my husband after our divorce. How long am I required to pay these for?
A: The maintenance payments can be for various amounts of time based on your individual situation.
Maintenance is usually paid on a monthly basis. It can be paid for a limited time to be determined by the courts, known as a ‘term order’ or until one of the parties dies or remarries, this is known as a ‘joint lives order’. However, the ‘joint lives order’ is rare as the courts look to facilitate a clean break between couples as quickly as possible.
Q: My former wife and I divorced 10 years ago, and I was ordered by the court to pay spousal maintenance to my wife, as well as child maintenance for our two children. She is due to remarry this summer, what will happen with my maintenance payments?
A: The requirement to pay spousal maintenance automatically ends when your former wife remarries. So, from the date of the new marriage you will no longer be required to pay any form of spousal maintenance.
The only exception to this rule would be if you were in arrears with your spousal maintenance payments at the time of your former wife’s remarriage. You would then be required to bring these payments up to date.
Spousal maintenance may also be brought to an end if your former wife lives with her fiancé prior to their marriage, but this isn’t automatic and would depend on their financial circumstances.
Your child maintenance payments will continue as normal after your former wife’s remarriage. Payments usually stop when the child reaches 16 or when they complete full-time education.
Q: My former spouse has now started working, do I still have to pay them maintenance?
A: It will depend on the circumstances of the case and the financial arrangements that were made during your divorce.
If your former spouse is now earning a sufficient amount to support themselves, it may be that your maintenance payments could come to an end or be reduced.
It may be necessary to make an application to the court for a variation application, you should seek appropriate legal advice before taking any actions in this instance.
Harrison Drury has an experienced team of family and divorce lawyers in Lancashire and Cumbria. If you would like to speak confidentially to the team about any family law matter, contact them on 01772 258 321.