Spousal maintenance is a topic of much debate and is often the sticking point when attempting to reach an agreement upon divorce.
The spouse who has spent many years building their career often feels aggrieved upon divorce when they are being advised that they will need to continue sharing their income for some years to come.
When there are children of the marriage, it is often the case that one spouse has sacrificed their career in order to care for the children while the other has continued to build their career and financially provide for the family. The spouse that has stayed at home to look after the children has provided no less a contribution to the marriage than the other. Irrespective of whether this was a joint decision, when there are young children involved there is a likely to be ongoing spousal maintenance (subject to sufficient income).
It is important to note that spousal maintenance is not just for those families with children. Even where there are no children involved, or the children have grown up, you may still be expected to provide maintenance moving forward if there is a significant disparity in income/earning capacity.
The Courts approach on divorce is that both parties should leave the marriage on an equal footing. One party should not live the high life while the other is poverty stricken. But for how long should you be expected to pay maintenance and at what point should your ex-spouse try and support themselves?
The Courts approach towards spousal maintenance has changed throughout the years. We are seeing fewer orders for Joint Lives Maintenance (whereby there is no end to maintenance) and more “Term Maintenance” or Clean Breaks where possible.
Where there are young children involved, it is more than likely that you will be expected to pay not only child maintenance but spousal maintenance also. As the children get older and become less dependent, the other parent is expected to try and increase their income so as to become more self-sufficient over time. It may still not be possible to have a clean break in the future, but it may be that spousal maintenance can be reduced over time.
The level of spousal maintenance, and the duration, is dependent upon many factors and unlike child maintenance, there is no set calculation. Each outcome is very much dependent upon the individual circumstances. While you may have friends, relatives, colleagues etc. in a similar situation, the outcomes may be very different.
Written by Danielle Day of Berwins Solicitors.