Divorce and spousal maintenance: for how long is spousal maintenance paid?

 
 

When a couple split up it is normal for finances to be stretched as a separation often means the family is trying to fund two households out of the same amount of income. When it comes to negotiating a financial settlement with a husband or wife often top London divorce solicitors find that the trickiest part is reaching agreement on whether spousal maintenance should be paid, and if so, how long for. 

 
It is usually the case that either a husband or a wife want to achieve a ‘clean break’. If there is a clean break financial settlement neither a husband nor wife can ask for spousal maintenance later.
 
The best London divorce solicitors can advise on the full range of spousal maintenance options, including a deferred clean break. In other words, spousal maintenance is paid for a set period of time and after a date no further spousal maintenance is paid and no further court applications can be made.
 
In some family scenarios, it is clear that payment of spousal maintenance is not necessary or appropriate. In other family cases, there is a range of spousal maintenance orders that a court could make. As spousal maintenance is a particularly complex area of family law it pays to get legal advice from a top London divorce solicitor. 
 

How can OTS Solicitors help?

 
If you need legal advice on spousal maintenance or financial settlement or would like a financial court order drawn up then OTS Solicitors’ divorce and family finance team can help you.
 
For a confidential discussion on how OTS Solicitors can help you please call me on 0203 959 9123.
 

How long does spousal maintenance last for?

 
How long spousal maintenance lasts for depends on why it is paid.

 

Spousal maintenance can be paid:

 

• On a voluntary basis between husband and wife;

• Under a temporary spousal maintenance order called “maintenance pending suit”;

• Under the terms of a separation agreement signed by a husband and wife;

• Under the terms of a financial court order. The order can be made by agreement by the husband and wife and approved by the court.

 
Alternatively, a judge can make it after a financial court order after a contested court hearing. 
          

How long will spousal maintenance last?

 
The court can order three different types of spousal maintenance. The type of court order will determine how long the spousal maintenance lasts.
 

Joint lives maintenance court order 

 
If the court makes a “joint lives” spousal maintenance order, the spousal maintenance will continue throughout the joint lives of the payer and the payee.
 
The joint lives spousal maintenance order will only stop if:
 

• The court order is varied and an order is made to stop the spousal maintenance payments. This is called a clean break order;

• The spouse receiving the spousal maintenance payments remarries;

• The spouse paying the spousal maintenance payments dies. However, the spouse receiving the spousal maintenance payments may be able to make a claim against the deceased’s estate if he or she was dependent on the spousal maintenance payments.

 

Term spousal maintenance court order 

 
The term spousal maintenance court order is an order where spousal maintenance is paid for a set number of years. The term or length of time that spousal maintenance is paid for can be extended by the court. If an application is made by the spouse receiving the spousal maintenance payments to extend the length of the spousal maintenance payments they must show that there is a good reason to do so. For example, a disability or the illness of a child that has prevented the spouse’s anticipated return to part or full time work.
 
Any application to extend the term of spousal maintenance must be made before the term maintenance order expires. That is why it is important to take legal advice from the best London divorce solicitors so that, if necessary, you can make a court application prior to the deadline.
 

Spousal term maintenance order with a bar

 

A spousal term maintenance order with a bar is the same as a term maintenance spousal maintenance order with one very important exception.
 
The length of time that the spousal maintenance is paid for cannot be extended. This means that if any unexpected situation occurs, such as:
 

• The inability of the spouse receiving the spousal maintenance payments to get a job, for example as a result of the economy, ill health or disability;

• The sudden rise in income and fortunes of the spouse who is paying the spousal maintenance payments, for example a big job promotion, winning the lottery or the sale of a business.

 

Clean break order

 
If the court makes a “clean break” order then no spousal maintenance is payable. The important point about a clean break order is that it stops a former husband or wife applying to court for spousal maintenance if their circumstances have changed from the date of separation. For example, at the time a couple split up they may have both been earning a similar amount but if one spouse was made redundant and the other achieved great financial success with their business the financial picture may be very different.
 
The top London divorce solicitors always emphasise the importance of securing a clean break order, if possible, so that there is complete peace of mind and both spouses know that they can plan their financial lives in the knowledge that no spousal maintenance or other financial claims can be made.
 
It can be easy to dismiss the possibility of a spouse asking for spousal maintenance many years after a separation has taken place. However, the best London divorce solicitors have experience of former spouses applying many years after a separation for financial provision. A clean break order stops all claims, including spousal maintenance.
 

Do spousal maintenance payments stop if the person receiving the payments cohabits with a new partner?

 
Whether spousal maintenance payments will stop if the person receiving the payments cohabits with a new partner depends on the wording of the financial court order.
 
If the person who is receiving the spousal maintenance payments remarries then the spousal maintenance payments automatically stop. Any child support payments will continue.
 
Even if the financial court order does not say the spousal maintenance will stop if the person receiving the spousal maintenance cohabits, it may be the reason for an application being made to court to either stop or reduce the spousal maintenance payments. 
 

Can the amount of spousal maintenance be increased or reduced?

 
After a spousal maintenance order is made, the level of maintenance can be reviewed and can increase or decrease or be stopped, depending upon changes in circumstances.  
If there is an order for spousal maintenance, the court can at a later date order the payment of a lump sum payment or pension provision instead of ongoing spousal maintenance.
 
As a husband or wife can apply to the court at any time to vary the amount of spousal maintenance payable upwards or downwards many courts prefer to make a clean break financial court order if possible. That is because it stops the cost of any further court proceedings. Sometimes a clean break financial court order is only possible if the financially weaker spouse gets more of the family assets to compensate them for the income disparity and their reduced mortgage capacity because of their lower income and lack of spousal maintenance payments.
 
No two families are the same and that is why it is important to get legal advice from top London divorce solicitors on your options as in some scenarios it is better to get a financial clean break order, and in other situations, the price of giving extra family assets may be too high. 
 
Even if a spousal maintenance order has been made, it is possible for a husband or wife to apply to court to stop, reduce or increase the spousal maintenance payments. It is therefore always worth revisiting the spousal maintenance payments and getting advice from the best London divorce solicitors on your options.
 

How can OTS Solicitors help?

 
For advice on spousal maintenance and your financial settlement options please call me on 0203 959 9123 for a confidential discussion about how OTS Solicitors can help you.  
 

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