How is spousal maintenance calculated UK?
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.
“How much spousal maintenance should I get?”
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:
- On the agreed date formalised through the courts
- If either person dies
- 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.
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?
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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