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What is spousal maintenance and how does it work?

by Busines Newswire
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Navigating divorce and the changes made to the process can feel extremely daunting, and the prospect of arranging financial support after you separate from a partner can cause a lot of stress for individuals. If you have children, this can make things even more complicated.

A Spousal Maintenance Order is an agreement that aims to help the financially weaker party adjust to their financial position after separation. This is reached during a divorce financial settlement. It is a legally enforceable document, which means that if anyone breaches this, they could receive sanctions and penalties. Late payments could also result in added interest. They tend to be put in place for a fixed term – this might be until the youngest child reaches the age of 18, for example.

You might be seeking a Spousal Maintenance Order after an online divorce or a divorce carried out by a solicitor; either way, it’s important to understand what the process involves.

Eligibility criteria for spousal support

Spousal maintenance is not applicable in every instance of divorce, as not every case will meet the criteria. This is why many seek the support of a specialist divorce lawyer with experience in this area.

The following must be taken into account when assessing whether spousal maintenance is necessary:

  • One spouse requiring income where it is not being met from other income sources.
  • The other spouse being able to afford to make a payment to assist their ex-spouse’s income needs whilst meeting their own needs.

If an ex-spouse can no longer afford maintenance payments, they will need to make an application to the Court. The same payments must be made until further action is taken, otherwise they could face sanctions from the Court.

Calculating spousal maintenance

There is no set formula for working out spousal maintenance because all the circumstances of the married parties are considered, which means the outcomes can vary greatly. A spousal maintenance agreement can be reached in several ways.

The most cost-effective method is through clear communication with your partner. You can attend mediation to help with this. Many also opt for legal support to reach a fair and reasonable conclusion. In more complex scenarios, a solicitor can be more involved. If a fair conclusion is not reached, you can make a court application, and again, a solicitor can help to increase your chances of a successful application.

The amount you receive depends on the following:

  • How much you need to live on
  • How much income you already have
  • How much you could potentially earn in the future

Spousal maintenance agreements can be modified upward or downward by the Court where necessary due to changes in personal circumstances. This could include cases where one partner loses their job or secures a better position at work.

If you need legal assistance to secure a fair and reasonable spousal maintenance agreement, the specialist family lawyers at Stowe Family Law can provide this with an understanding and professional approach.