Apply for Spousal Maintenance Payments
The UK news is all about the cost-of-living crisis and how it is affecting our ability to pay our mortgages, rent, and energy bills or afford little luxuries, like days out with the children or the cost of Christmas. With an inflation rate of over 10%, it is a worrying time if you are trying to make ends meet. Family law solicitors are being asked by worried separated or divorced husbands and wives if applying for spousal maintenance is the solution to their personal cost-of-living crisis. In this article, our family law solicitors look at your option of applying for spousal maintenance.
Online and London Family Law Solicitors
Who can apply for spousal maintenance?
You can apply for spousal maintenance if you are married or in a civil partnership. You cannot apply for spousal maintenance if you are not married and you are, or you were, in a cohabiting or unmarried relationship.
There are some exceptions to your ability to apply for spousal maintenance. You cannot apply if:
- You have remarried
- You obtained a financial court order at the time of your divorce and the court order included a clean break to prevent any further financial claims. Court orders can be complicated so if you already have a financial court order it is best to get a family law solicitor to check it for you as you may find you can still apply for spousal maintenance or that your time-limited spousal maintenance order can be extended so you receive spousal maintenance for longer. If you need help working out whether your financial court order includes a clean break then give our friendly family law solicitorsa call on 0203 959 9123.
Many people think they cannot apply for spousal maintenance but family lawyers can assure you that you can apply for spousal maintenance:
- Whether or not you have children with your estranged or divorced husband or wife
- Even if your children are independent as they have finished university or even if your children are under 18 but live with your ex-husband or ex-wife
- Whatever the length of your marriage – though you are more likely to get spousal maintenance (or receive it for longer) if you have been married for a long time
- Whatever your age – you may think that if you are young then you will not get an order for spousal maintenance but the court can order short-term spousal maintenance to help you adjust to a new standard of living after a relatively short marriage without children
- Whether you are in employment or not – the court will look at the income differential between the two households, your respective needs, and outgoings as well as other statutory factors
- Even if there has been a delay between the date of your separation or divorce and your claim for spousal maintenance. You can still claim spousal maintenance if you have not remarried
How to apply for spousal maintenance
An application can be made to family court for spousal maintenance but family lawyers always recommend that you try to negotiate spousal maintenance first to save time and money on a spousal maintenance court application. It is best to get specialist legal advice on your spousal maintenance rights so you do not agree to a financial consent order that does not reflect what you thought you verbally agreed with your ex and to make sure your agreement on spousal maintenance is for an amount and for a length of time that is reasonable and within the range of court orders that the court might make if you applied for spousal maintenance.
Spousal maintenance can be resolved through:
- Solicitor negotiations
- Round table meetings
- Family mediation
If you reach an agreement on spousal maintenance, it is important to get a family court judge to make an order for spousal maintenance. Asking the court to make an agreed order does not involve a lot of paperwork and you do not normally need to attend a court hearing. The spousal maintenance order protects you in case your ex-partner changes their mind about the agreement or there is non-payment and you need to enforce an order to get the agreed spousal maintenance.
If you cannot reach an agreement on spousal maintenance, it may be necessary to apply to the court for a spousal maintenance order. If you have not reached an agreement over what should happen to the family home or business or pensions then it is best to make an application for a divorce financial settlement that will resolve the division of assets as well as the payment of spousal maintenance. If you have already reached a divorce financial settlement and spousal maintenance was left open, or you are applying for more spousal maintenance, or for the spousal maintenance payments to continue for longer, you may be able to limit your application to spousal maintenance only.
Spousal maintenance applications and financial disclosure
In a spousal maintenance application, the extent of the financial disclosure required may depend on the nature of your application (whether you are applying for a divorce financial settlement or just limiting your application to spousal maintenance) or the nature of your spouse or ex-partner’s income.
If your ex-spouse is self-employed or their stated income does not match their disclosed expenditure then additional financial disclosure and questions may need to be asked. For example, if your ex says their salary is £100,000 but they have a mortgage of over 8 times their stated annual salary and although their mortgage payments take up a large part of their disclosed monthly net income, they have no debt and are still going on lavish holidays or leasing expensive cars.
Family lawyers can advise you on whether further digging and financial disclosure is required before you ask the court to decide on whether spousal maintenance should be paid and for how long.
Spousal maintenance application tips
If you need spousal maintenance, it is best to get some expert legal advice before you make a court application to check that you have the right and the grounds to make a claim.
Family law solicitors recommend:
- You check the wording of any existing financial court order with a family solicitor – you do not want to go to the expense of making a court application if you do not have the grounds to do so
- You try to negotiate spousal maintenance to save money – that is not always possible. For example, it is not possible if an ex-spouse has a fundamental objection to spousal maintenance payments or is being dishonest about their income
- You look at the option of capitalisation of spousal maintenance – this is where you get a one-off payment instead of ongoing spousal maintenance payments. If you agree to a lump sum payment instead of spousal maintenance, think about the impact of inflation or the prospects of your ex-spouse getting promotions and pay rises enabling you to apply to the court for an increase in spousal maintenance payments. You also need to think about your ex losing their job or your getting remarried and your spousal maintenance payments stopping because of your re-marriage. Capitalisation of spousal maintenance needs to be carefully thought out to make sure it is in your best interests
- You focus your spousal maintenance application on the criteria a judge will look at when deciding whether to give you spousal maintenance and for how long. Therefore, whilst your husband or wife's behaviour may have led to the marriage breakdown, or you may feel incensed by their new relationship with a younger partner, it is best to focus on the statutory criteria a judge has to consider and assess when making a spousal maintenance order
- If you apply for spousal maintenance do not forget to ask for a mechanism for increases to try and future-proof the payments. With inflation at 10% spousal maintenance of £1,000 per month in 2022 will only be worth £900 a month in 2023. Family lawyers can advise you on spousal maintenance increase mechanisms to include in the spousal maintenance court order
Online and London Family Law Solicitors