What is spousal maintenance?

Originally published on 15th January 2019 at 10:16 AM
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What is spousal maintenance?

Spousal maintenance is a payment made by either a husband or wife to their former partner when they divorce or dissolve their civil partnership.  It is a specific sum of money paid (usually monthly) for a specified period. Spousal maintenance is different to child maintenance and is only paid if one person cannot support themselves after the divorce or dissolution of the civil partnership. It is paid by the person in a stronger financial position to the person in a weaker financial position. Today, the courts see this as a short-term payment which can last for for a few months or a few years.

How to apply for spousal maintenance UK

In England and Wales, spousal maintenance occurs when one person in the relationship needs a financial top-up from their ex-partner, so their needs are met.

There are many different scenarios and reasons why spousal maintenance may feature as part of a separating couples financial settlement.

The most common scenario for this is where one person has given up their career to bring up the children and their earning potential may be significantly reduced, or they may be unable to earn. So that their needs a met, they may need to be paid spousal maintenance.

For guidance around spousal maintenance in the rest of the UK, visit the Scottish government website, or the Norther Ireland government website.

How is spousal maintenance calculated UK?

There is no defined formula. In general terms, it will depend on how much you’ll need to live on (relative to your circumstances), how much income the receiver already has and how much the receiver could earn in the future.

A good place to start when deciding how much to pay is to list out your monthly outgoings. The court will expect both you and your ex to have similar standards of living post-divorce so you should look at both of your financial positions once the proposed spousal maintenance has been paid.

Long-term, the court will expect the receiver of spousal maintenance to re-train and get back into work, and to achieve financial independence if possible.

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When does spousal maintenance end?

There are three scenarios when the spousal maintenance ends:

  1. On the agreed date formalised through the courts
  2. If either person dies
  3. If the receiver of the maintenance re-marries

What happens if someone stops paying?

If there is a reason the provider of the spousal maintenance has stopped paying, such as an obvious change in their circumstances (e.g., they have lost their job), then it's wise to try and resolve things yourself by negotiating a new payment schedule.

If, however, the provider of the spousal maintenance stops all payments without reason and they won’t negotiate with you, you can enforce that they pay through the courts if your spousal maintenance was documented in a consent order.

A consent order is the document that legalises your agreed financial split and ends any future claims. The spousal arrangement should be included in the consent order to ensure that you’re protected against claims in the future.

Please get in touch with one of our amicable experts for help and advice on spousal maintenance. You can email us on [email protected] or book a free 15-minute call here.

If you have any questions, or would like some support, please book a free 15-minute call with one of our Divorce Specialists here.


Who is entitled to spousal maintenance UK?

Entitlement to spousal maintenance depends on individual circumstances, and there isn't a fixed formula determining eligibility. Spousal maintenance can be used as a solution for financial inequality if one persons needs aren’t met by a traditional division of assets in a divorce or dissolution.

Does spousal maintenance affect universal credit?

Spousal maintenance can affect universal credit, as it's considered as income for the recipient. If you're receiving spousal maintenance, it's likely to be considered when calculating universal credit payments.

How long does spousal maintenance last?

How long spousal maintenance lasts can vary significantly based on individual circumstances. Generally, the length of spousal maintenance depends on the conditions set out in the financial and/or consent order approved by the court. Or it can be decided over a kitchen table agreement.

Is spousal maintenance taxable?

In England and Wales, spousal maintenance received is generally considered taxable income for the recipient. However, we recommend consulting a tax professional for further information.

Which spousal maintenance calculator (UK) should I use?

We recommend the International Family Law Group’s (IFLG) spousal maintenance tool as it’s the most straightforward UK spousal maintenance calculator.

Does spousal maintenance stop if you cohabit?

Typically, if the recipient of spousal maintenance enters a new cohabiting relationship, it might impact the maintenance payments, but it doesn't automatically terminate them and is based on your individual circumstances and agreement.

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Comments (2)

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11.02.2019 16:06

Hi, Re Spousal Maintenance I work part time in a school. I changed career from a director in advertising in London when the children were toddlers so I could be the main carer and have school holidays free to look after them. My husband who I am divorcing is suggesting I drastically change back into the higher income career and go full time. Until then he will stage payments , and reduce as time goes on until I have reached that goal. My children are only 11 and 13 and still need me during school holidays. Is it correct that he can insist I not only re-change career after 5 years building in another career but go back full time? Also, so he can assess maintenance calculations he would like to know what benefits I can access. My parents have a property they put in my name as an inheritance when I was a student. I have never benefited from the rental income, they use it for maintenance on the property and sits in an account they set up which I'm not privy too. Although I do not financially benefit from it, though it is in my name, do I include this with my part time income when checking what benefits are applicable to me, even though it is not actually part of my own income? I hope my two queries makes sense. Thank you Ayshea

Jane Parham
05.03.2019 18:23

Good evening My husband left me for another woman nearly 4 years ago, he is still with her. We were married for 20 years,I am 61 now we have joint mortgage, it is interest only so he currently pays £292.00 per month for this nothing else. The mortgage term comes to an end in 8 years time with an outstanding debt of £154,000 I cannot get a mortgage to pay this off. I would like to divorce him but I also need financial maintenance to enable me to move on to a smaller property. Can you please advise me which route to take.....HELP!! Thank you