‘Maintenance’ is a topic that I am frequently asked to advise on. Whether this is in relation to entitlement, enforcement or variation, it is a topic which has a multitude of ambiguities.
So what is maintenance?
Strictly speaking, ‘maintenance’ can be broken down into two forms; child maintenance (payments that the non-resident parent makes in respect of their child/children) and spousal maintenance (payments that a husband/wife makes in order to support their spouse’s reasonable needs).
Child maintenance is now dealt with via the Child Maintenance Service and the Court no longer holds jurisdiction over this area. If you have any concerns or questions over child maintenance, it is prudent to contact the Child Maintenance Service in the first instance.
Spousal maintenance (or periodical payments) normally forms part of a divorce and the financial consequences of divorce. It is the process in which a husband or wife continues to make monthly or yearly ‘maintenance payments’ to their former spouse during the divorce and/or after the divorce has been finalised and a financial agreement reached.
Am I entitled to it?
The question of entitlement to spousal maintenance is a complicated issue. Ultimately, as within any divorce, the discretion lies with the District Judge as to whether to award a party maintenance. The Court has a statutory obligation to try and achieve a Clean Break where possible and this will often mean that maintenance is not awarded.
However, the Court must balance this obligation with the consideration towards the financial needs of the parties and the standard of living enjoyed by the family during the marriage. The Court will want to try and ensure, where possible, that a person’s reasonable needs are being met and that their standard of living has not drastically altered as a result of the breakdown of the marriage. It is often seen in cases where there is a large disparity in income between the parties and/or there are dependant children, that maintenance is awarded.