Spousal Maintenance and Clean Breaks
When a couple decides to divorce or end a civil partnership, one partner may need to pay maintenance to the other, should one partner be unable to support themselves financially and the other party has surplus income to be able to afford to pay the same.
Spousal maintenance is different from child maintenance and is only payable to individuals who were married or in a civil partnership. If a couple do not marry and separate, they are not entitled to spousal maintenance.
Spousal Maintenance is a regular payment made to a partner who cannot support themselves financially following their marriage or civil partnership breakdown.
The amount of maintenance received is decided by the Courts, who take into consideration several factors when deciding on the amount to be made, including:
- What their potential earnings may be in the future
- What their current income is
- How much they require to live
- Length of Marriage
- Age of the parties involved
The court will then assess the amount one party reasonably needs and the amount the other party can reasonably afford to pay.
The Courts will also decide on the duration the maintenance will be paid for, either for a specific period eg 3 years or, in rare cases, for their ‘joint lives’.
The maintenance will cease if:
- The defined payment term comes to an end or
- The person receiving the maintenance re-marries or
- In the case of a ‘joint lives’ payment term, either party dies or
- On other determining events specified in the order.
Either party can apply for the amount of spousal maintenance to be varied upon a change in circumstances. For example the paying party may apply to reduce the payments if they lose their job or suffer a reduction in income or the person receiving the payments starts to live with a new partner without entering into a further marriage. The receiving party may apply to increase the payments if the paying party secures an increase in income or they themselves suffer a reduction in income.
Lump sum payments and a Clean Break
When couples separate, there may be enough money to allow the higher earning party to buy off (or ‘capitalise’ as it is called) the spousal maintenance claims of the other. This can be done by them either paying an additional lump sum to the other party or the other party retaining more of the capital assets. When this happens no spousal maintenance is then paid, enabling the separating couple to become independent of each other financially and facilitate what is known as a ‘Clean Break’.
A clean break allows both parties to end their monetary ties to each other.
This may sound like a simple solution but putting a clean break in place can be complex. To ensure that no further claims are made in the future, it is essential to apply for a court order, which clearly states the agreement between the parties and that this agreement has facilitated a clean break, with the formal dismissal of all financial claims.
Talk to Tollers
If you are separated or are considering ending your marriage or civil partnership and need advice on spousal maintenance or a clean break order, it is vital to get advice and guidance from a qualified Family Law Solicitor who can assist in having this agreement put in place between the parties…Talk to Tollers today on 01604 258558 or enquire here.