MAINTENANCE PAYMENTS DURING AND AFTER DIVORCE PROCEEDINGS
By Richard Wright
Solicitor & Associate
There is usually a responsibility for one party to a marriage to pay maintenance to the other party as a result of separation and divorce. This may be arranged, or ordered, in three ways:
(a) As Child Support: on a periodical basis (usually weekly or monthly) which is either agreed between the parents or decided by the Child Maintenance Service, on the basis of a statutory calculation. If you go to www.gov.uk/calculate-child-maintenance you will be able to calculate exactly what that financial responsibility will be. This payment is simply to provide financial support where there are dependent minor children.
(b) Spousal Maintenance: again, paid on a periodical basis (weekly, monthly or annually) but this is a payment to the other spouse to provide him or her with sufficient income to meet his or her needs (save for high wealth cases where needs and resources are not considered to be the dominant factor). Broadly speaking, the District Judge would consider the level of income that the economically weaker party has, or can be expected to achieve from part time work supported by benefits, and then consider whether there is a shortfall in meeting those needs. Spousal maintenance payable on a short term basis during the divorce proceedings is known as Interim Maintenance (sometimes called Maintenance Pending Suit) and calculated on a more restricted basis than long term maintenance. Essentially the aim is to meet basic needs or subsistence needs. Long term Spousal Maintenance is to meet all reasonable needs (which covers more items of expenditure such as holidays and Christmas). Such maintenance will not be ordered by a Court unless it is satisfied that the paying spouse can afford it.
(c) Global Maintenance: where there has been no agreed or assessed Child Maintenance, the Court may make a Global Maintenance Order (Interim or Long Term) based on the other spouse’s needs including the children’s needs. In these circumstances, the Order is usually expressed so that the payment is automatically reduced by the amount of any subsequent Child Maintenance Assessment (see (a) above).
Child Maintenance Payments generally continue at least until the child reaches the age of 16. After the age of 16, if the child leaves school and gets a job the payments cease in the September after they leave school. Where a child stays in secondary school for example to do A Levels, the payments end in the September after their A Level exams.
Spousal Maintenance payments continue until defined trigger points are reached and can be any one of the following, or the earlier or later of a combination of them:
(a) A specific date.
(b) The death of the payee.
(c) The remarriage of the payee.
(d) The cohabitation of the payee for a specified minimum period.
(e) The date when the youngest child reaches a certain age or ceases full time education (to be defined) whichever is the later.
Child Maintenance Claims cannot be dismissed by a Court Order. Spousal Maintenance Claims can. The Court will do this wherever it is fair. Sometimes the duty to pay Spousal Maintenance is traded off against a greater share of the available capital (for example a slightly bigger percentage share of the equity of the family home).
It is also possible for a Court to order that Maintenance shall never be more than a certain maximum, or for it to order that it will continue for a specified period of time which cannot be extended