Maintenance claims on Divorce – Meal Tickets for Life?

August 15, 2018

Whether or not you have children, on divorce the Court can order that spousal maintenance payments are made by a spouse with more than enough income to meet their income needs, to a spouse with insufficient income to meet their income needs. This has recently been referred to in the press as a “meal ticket for life”.

This is because the Court can award maintenance on a “joint lives” basis which ends on the recipient’s re-marriage, death or further Court Order. Rarely, in these circumstances will the recipient remarry.

The Court can also make a maintenance order for a fixed period of time, for example to enable to recipient to become self-sufficient by retraining.  It may leave open the possibility of the recipient applying to extend the time period if, for example, it turns out that despite their best endeavours they are unable to obtain employment or it may close off that possibility by directing that they may not apply to extend the term.

When deciding the level of maintenance to award, the Court will consider both spouse’s income, earning capacity and income needs as well as their standard of living during the marriage. Maintenance orders can always be varied if there is a change in either spouse’s circumstances, including if the recipient cohabits, although this can be difficult to prove.

These claims can be very emotive to deal with as the payer feels that they should not have to continue to support their ex from income that they work hard to achieve after separation. On the other hand the recipient may not want to be financially dependent on their ex but has no other source of income having given up a career following decisions made during the marriage.

Recent cases have tended to support the payer by expecting the recipient to show that they have made reasonable efforts to support themselves when seeking to change the terms of a maintenance order, and the Courts have refused to award more money for housing needs where the recipient has made bad financial decisions.

To speak to our specialist family lawyers about spousal maintenance and arrange a meeting in Lancaster, Morecambe or Kendal please contact Barbara Richardson or Nicola Codd by telephone on 01524 401010 or email blr@bbpsolicitors.co.uk

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