Looking after you
When it comes to divorce it can feel as if you are on your own. At Evolve Family Law it isn’t like that. Whether you need spousal maintenance or you want to stop paying spousal maintenance our experienced spousal maintenance solicitors, led by partner Robin Charrot, will look after you and your interests, explaining what can be complex legal financial settlement options such as agreeing on a clean break Court Order or capitalising spousal maintenance payments.
Understanding your needs and goals
At Evolve the expert divorce financial settlement solicitors understand that we are all individuals with different needs and goals. Your priority may be to safeguard your family business or pension or to achieve the finality of a clean break financial Court Order. Alternatively, after a long marriage, you may be looking for the security of a joint lives spousal maintenance Order. With a personal approach to all that we do, at Evolve we take the time to understand your priorities and use our expertise to secure the best divorce financial settlement for you.
Why choose the divorce financial settlement solicitors at Evolve Family Law?
Partners, Louise Halford and Robin Charrot understand that you have a wide array of spousal maintenance solicitors to choose from. What makes Evolve stand out? A commercial attitude to securing the best divorce financial settlement for your circumstances combining expertise and experience with a personal approach, never losing sight of the fact that achieving your goals is our priority.
Divorce And Spousal Maintenance – Your Questions Answered
Separation and paying the bills on the family home
Normally a separating couple’s first financial concern is how to sort out payment of bills on the family home until they are able to reach a long-term financial settlement with their ex-husband or ex-wife. Often finances are stretched after a husband and wife separate as they are trying to fund two households from the same amount of income.
There are many ways to sort out short-term payments of bills and financial provisions. The key to doing so is to do your homework so you know the extent of the outgoings, the extent of your ex-partner’s bills on his or her new or rented property and to compromise. Payments can be made direct to utility companies to pay essential bills or paying a monthly amount into a joint or sole account, or sometimes a combination of the two.
If you are not able to reach an agreement over short-term payment of bills on the family home and spousal maintenance through solicitor negotiations or family mediation the Family Court has the power to make a short-term spousal maintenance Order (referred to as ‘maintenance pending suit).
Does a joint bank account have to be closed on separation and spousal maintenance paid instead?
A joint account does not have to be closed if you are both comfortable with continuing to operate a joint account until long-term decisions are made over whether the family home should be sold or transferred.
You can continue to use the joint account to pay salaries or an agreed monthly amount into the joint account and fund the agreed expenditure out of it. This interim solution doesn’t work for all couples, especially where there are trust issues, but it can be a simple temporary solution for some families.
You should bear in mind that a joint account may have a large balance in the account or an overdraft facility on it. Money can be withdrawn from the account by one partner. If funds are withdrawn on a joint overdraft facility a husband and wife are jointly and severally liable for any overdraft on the joint account. The continued use of a joint account is therefore only suitable on a short-term basis where a couple is splitting up amicably and are confident that their ex-partner’s spending habits won’t change because of the separation whilst you are sorting out your finances on a long-term basis.
Some couples prefer to separate their finances and close their joint bank account when they make the decision to separate. If a husband or wife prefers to close the joint account then direct debits and financial support can be transferred into a sole account and an agreement is reached on who will pay the bills on the family home. If an agreement can’t be reached the Court can be asked to order the payment of interim spousal maintenance. If there are dependent children an application could also potentially be made for child support.
How is spousal maintenance calculated?
There is no mathematical formula to calculate whether spousal maintenance should be paid and if so, the amount of spousal maintenance. The Court assesses spousal maintenance after carefully considering a range of factors including current income, earnings potential and reasonable outgoings.
It is normally helpful to prepare a schedule of outgoings so you don’t forget items that are not paid on a weekly or monthly basis. It is important that you both look at your outgoings if one of you is leaving the family home and going to stay with the family or moving into rented accommodation. Evolve can send you a schedule and advise you about temporary and long-term options for income payments and spousal maintenance.
Is short-term spousal maintenance paid at the same rate as long-term spousal maintenance?
The amount of spousal maintenance could go down or go up when a long-term financial settlement is reached or a financial Court Order is made by a judge.
If the family home is large then it could be an appropriate long-term solution for the property to be sold. This could reduce outgoings and the need for spousal maintenance payments. Alternatively, in some family scenarios, when a long-term financial Court Order is made the amount payable in spousal maintenance goes up because there is a good level of income and the temporary financial payments just covered essential outgoings. The Court may say that there should be a higher level of ongoing spousal maintenance to take into account the extras and the standard of living enjoyed by the family before the marriage breakdown.
Applying for spousal maintenance
A spouse can ask for financial support for themselves, known as ‘spousal maintenance‘. If you can’t reach an agreement over the amount of temporary spousal maintenance you can make an application for short-term spousal maintenance, known as ‘maintenance pending suit’. At the final hearing of any financial Court proceedings, the Court will decide if any spousal maintenance should be paid on an ongoing basis and, if so, the amount and when the spousal maintenance payments should stop.
If you have a child with your spouse then one of you may be entitled to ask the other to pay child support. Child support is calculated on a strict mathematical formula provided by the Child Maintenance Service. The parent with the day-to-day care of the child may also be able to apply to Court for top-up child support or a school fees Order.
Is child support decided by the Court?
Child support is not normally decided by the Court. If a couple can’t reach an agreement on child support through family mediation or solicitor negotiations then child support is normally decided by the Child Maintenance Service and spousal maintenance is determined by the Court. There are limited occasions where the Court can order a global amount of financial support (to include spousal maintenance and child support) to be paid to one partner.
Although child support and spousal maintenance are different when former partners are agreeing on the level of spousal maintenance or the Court is making a spousal maintenance order, the amount of child support payable is taken into account when looking at how much the payee needs in spousal maintenance to pay their reasonable outgoings and how much the payer can afford to pay in spousal maintenance given the amount of child support they are paying and their own reasonable outgoings.
How does a Court decide on a figure for spousal maintenance?
A husband or wife can make an application for a financial remedy order within divorce proceedings. On any application, the welfare of any children under the age of eighteen is the Court’s first consideration. This does not mean that the children’s needs are paramount but their needs come first. The Court does not have a set formula to say how much, if any, spousal maintenance should be paid. The Court has a lot of discretion to make what orders it thinks appropriate. The amount of spousal maintenance could be very different on a short-term and a long-term basis, depending on how other assets are split.
Although the Court can order lump-sum payments and property transfer orders these are separate but linked to spousal maintenance orders. This means that the less capital that a husband or wife with a low or no income receives then the greater the probability that they may need spousal maintenance in order to meet their income needs. Reaching a divorce financial settlement is a bit like completing a jigsaw as it is important that the capital, pension and income settlements meet your respective needs.
How long will spousal maintenance last?
The Court can order different types of spousal maintenance or a ‘clean break‘:
- Joint lives maintenance – this type of maintenance continues throughout the joint lives of the payer and the payee until further order of the Court or until the payee remarries. Either a husband or wife can apply to the Court at any time to vary the amount of maintenance payable upwards or downwards if there is a change in circumstances. It is also possible for the payer to apply to the Court to stop the spousal maintenance payments if there is a change in circumstances. It is also possible for either the husband or wife to apply to the Court for the maintenance to be “capitalised”. This means that the payer pays a lump sum payment or agrees to pension sharing provision being made so that the lump sum cash payment or pension income replaces the spousal maintenance.
- Term maintenance – spousal maintenance is paid for a set number of years. The level of spousal maintenance can be varied before the term expires (but not afterwards). The term or length of time that spousal maintenance is paid for can be extended by the Court although there must be a good reason to do so and the application must be made before the term maintenance order expires.
- Term maintenance with a bar – this is the same as a term maintenance spousal maintenance Order except for the length of time that the spousal maintenance is paid for cannot be extended.
- Clean break order – a clean break income and capital Order mean no spousal maintenance is payable at all. If the Court makes a clean break Order a husband and wife can’t make a new maintenance application, even if there is a change in their personal financial circumstances at a later date.
Can the amount of spousal maintenance be increased or reduced?
When a spousal maintenance Order is made the level of spousal 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.
When will spousal maintenance stop?
When spousal maintenance stops can depend on what was agreed and what is stated in the financial Court Order. Even if the Financial Court Order doesn’t say that spousal maintenance will automatically stop if an ex-husband or wife cohabits with a new partner the change could trigger an application by the paying ex-spouse to either stop or reduce the amount of spousal maintenance.
If the person receiving the spousal maintenance remarries the spousal maintenance will automatically stop. The remarriage will not affect the requirement, if relevant, to pay child support.
If you’re interested in finding out more read our blog post ‘Am I entitled to Spousal Maintenance?’.