These regular payments from you to your ex, or vice versa, are designed to bridge inequalities in your incomes. How much– and how long – varies from case to case, requiring expertise guidance.
Unlike child maintenance, there is no set formula for working out how much spousal maintenance is payable. As a result, it can be one of the most complex and contentious areas when it comes to sorting out your finances.
Before even considering how much spousal maintenance should be paid, you first need to see if a clean break – or paying no spousal maintenance – is both possible and fair. For this to work, you and your ex both need to be able to financially support yourselves going forward. The court will always look to see if this is achievable.
If a clean break is not possible, spousal maintenance will be needed. How much will depend upon your family’s individual circumstances. How long it will be paid for will also depend upon your circumstances but generally spousal maintenance either lasts for a fixed period of time (for example, until a child finishes school) or is open-ended (also called joint lives). This means that the payments continue until either you or your ex die or the person receiving the payments remarries.
A distinctive feature of spousal maintenance is that it can be increased or decreased in the future depending on any changes in your or your ex’s financial position. It is also possible for spousal maintenance to be “capitalised” which means the payer paying a one-off lump sum of maintenance instead of regular monthly amounts.
Spousal maintenance raises lots of questions both for the person paying it and the person receiving it. Clear, pragmatic advice is a must to be able to plan your future with confidence. We have recently:
- negotiated spousal maintenance where our client’s ex’s pay was made up of complex elements including deferred bonuses, dividends and shares requiring an unusual order to protect her position
- successfully used arbitration and private FDRs to settle spousal maintenance disputes in a cost efficient and timely way to the satisfaction of all involved
- obtained a capitalised spousal maintenance order in unusual circumstances where the lump sum was funded entirely by pension assets
- advised clients looking to vary existing spousal maintenance orders, often where a second family is involved
- advised clients where their spousal maintenance was subject to foreign tax regimes