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In this article, we’ll explain spousal maintenance meaning and discuss when spousal maintenance may make up part of the financial settlement.
Spousal maintenance may make up part of your financial settlement upon divorce.
Spousal maintenance meaning is defined as the regular payments one former spouse pays to the other, as part of the divorce financial settlement.
Spousal maintenance, meaning maintenance paid to (and by) an ex-spouse, is only reserved for married couples. If you and your partner have never been married, you would not be entitled to apply for spousal maintenance if your relationship breaks down.
What’s more, it is only paid when one spouse cannot support themselves financially without it.
When looking at spousal maintenance meaning, it’s important to make a distinction between spousal maintenance and child maintenance. Child maintenance is there to solely support children. You do not need to have been married to claim child maintenance.
Couples who have been married for longer periods of time – as a rule of thumb, more than 5 years – may be more likely to receive spousal maintenance.
Those in shorter marriages may be less likely to get spousal maintenance, meaning that marriage length does have a bearing on spousal maintenance entitlement. Those in shorter marriages may still get spousal maintenance, but it may be paid for a shorter period of time.
Other factors, such as whether or not one party gave up work to look after the children and how old each party is, may have a bearing on whether spousal maintenance will make up part of the divorce financial settlement.
If a marriage was particularly long, one spouse may need to pay the other maintenance on a ‘joint lives’ basis. ‘Joint lives’ spousal maintenance, meaning maintenance paid for life (until either spouse dies), is increasingly rare.
Spousal maintenance meaning also includes fixed term spousal maintenance. In this instance, spousal maintenance will only be paid for a set period of time, rather than for life. This is more common.
How much spousal maintenance you may receive will depend on factors such as how much you earn, your potential future earnings and the amount of money you need to live on.
Spousal maintenance, meaning either joint lives or fixed term, may or may not form part of your financial settlement upon divorce.
It is highly advisable to seek legal advice from an experienced divorce solicitor, such as Austin Kemp, to discuss your individual circumstances.
While the spousal maintenance meaning is relatively simple (it is a payment that is made from one former spouse to the other upon divorce), whether or not you may be entitled to it can be much more complicated. It is important to seek legal advice for your circumstances.
According to Sky News, Amber Heard has requested ‘spousal support’ (the American version of maintenance) from Johnny Depp in the divorce papers she filed after only 15 months of marriage. Maintenance can play a big part in divorce settlements. Although some couples prefer to have a ‘clean break’ after they divorce, this isn’t always possible. Maintenance takes the form of ongoing payments from your spouse.
When looking at how much, if any, maintenance to award, the courts will take into account the needs of both you and your spouse and any children. You will usually only get maintenance if you wouldn’t be able to support yourself without it. When deciding how much maintenance you’ll get, the courts will look at things such as any income you have coming in already and what you may earn in the future.
Generally, the less time you’ve been married, the less likely you are to get maintenance or you may get a maintenance for a shorter period of time. People who have been married a long time may get maintenance for the rest of their lives, depending on their particular circumstances.
If you or your ex-spouse dies, the maintenance payments will end. This is why it can be helpful to insure your maintenance payments so that if your ex-spouse dies, you will continue to receive them.
In some circumstances, maintenance can be awarded on a fixed term basis rather than for your whole lives. This would mean that the maintenance payments would only carry on for a fixed period of time.
Your maintenance payments could also stop if you re-marry. Your ex-spouse could potentially apply to the courts to reduce the maintenance payments if you are living with a new partner.
Deciding to accept a lump sum instead of ongoing payments can work in some circumstances, but it’s important that you take legal advice. This lump sum would be calculated by working out how much you would get for a period of time in ongoing maintenance payments then asking instead for your spouse to pay it in a lump sum (a court can also order a lump sum payment in England and Wales).
It’s worth noting that the lump sum could be paid in more than one part, such as partly when the financial order is made by the court and partly after selling your house.
It’s good to understand your finances as fully as possible, including your income and expenses and any shortfalls you anticipate in this respect. Understanding this can help you to come to an appropriate maintenance figure to help to start discussions with your spouse. If your finances are particularly complex or you would like some outside help, you can discuss your situation with your financial advisor or even your solicitor.
In recent years, there have been several cases in which courts seemed reluctant to award anything other than temporary spousal maintenance. Indeed, there seemed to be a trend towards the supported spouse being encouraged to seek employment in order to obtain financial independence, as soon as possible after their divorce and not to rely on spousal maintenance payments for too long.
At first inspection, it seems extremely unfair that a man who has been divorced from his wife for such a long period of time, should have to continue to financially support her.
Maria Mills had received £230,000 in 2002. She had subsequently lost this, after what the court described as “unwise investments”.
Graham Mills had kept the business when they divorced. In the Court of Appeal, he argued that he should not have to continue to support Maria Mills, as they had now been divorced for 15 years. However, the Court of Appeal ordered that Mr. Mills should increase the monthly payments to Mrs Mills from £1,100 to £1,441.
On first glance, this does seem like a strange judgement for the Court of Appeal to make. However, if we look closer, why this decision was made becomes clearer.
For the last decade, Mrs Mills had reportedly been “hindered” by health problems, which had a direct impact on her finances and her ability to work. She now works part time as a beauty therapist.
Mrs Mills’ barrister also mentioned that the original sum of money that she had been left with in 2002, had not been enough to buy a house which she thought was good enough for herself and her young child, which was why she had taken out a mortgage and “over-financed”.
Mr. Mills had kept the business, which could provide him with some income. Mr. Mills had reportedly been able to previously draw dividends from his business interests of up to £200,000 a year.
So maybe this case isn’t as clear-cut as many headlines seem to imply and may not simply be the case of a “gold digger” (as she has been described by some) wanting to get as much money as possible from her ex-husband.
In essence, a clean break order stops you or your spouse claiming any maintenance from each other in the future. Indeed, all of the financial ties between you and your spouse will be severed under this order.
If you don’t have a clean break order, your spouse could come back to you at a later date, if you got a new job or won the lottery, for example, and ask for more money.
It’s important to obtain independent legal advice when going through a divorce to ensure that no claims can be made against you in the future.
If you’re worried about what this case could mean for your divorce, get in touch today for some specialist legal advice.
Our expert family law solicitors can help you with a range of legal issues relating to spousal maintenance, including:
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