Spousal maintenance is money paid regularly, usually monthly, by one spouse to their former spouse following a divorce. It can be ordered for example in situations whereby one partner cannot support themselves financially, for example, one spouse has stopped working in order to raise the children. Maintenance can be ordered by the court for relatively short periods of time in order to enable the recipient to become more financially independent by for instance, going back to work. This is known as term maintenance.
Maintenance can also be ordered for longer periods and can be terminated if the parties become entitled to draw income from their pensions. The level of maintenance can be varied upward or downward by an application to the Court.
The Courts always have a duty to consider a ‘clean-break’ between spouses on a divorce and where possible, the Court will normally put this in place rather than ordering maintenance over a length of time. This can involve paying a lump sum instead of maintenance, which is known as ‘capitalising’ maintenance.
Spousal maintenance will often end if the recipient remarries or enters a civil partnership, or if either the recipient or payer dies. If there is also an agreed end to the payments, the maintenance will automatically stop at that date. It can also end if the recipient lives with a new partner for six months if the parties agree to this being an end-date.
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