We are separating. How will I resolve my monthly maintenance needs?
In relation to the financial needs of a husband and wife, there is guidance which requires us to consider “the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities that each of you have, or are likely to have in the foreseeable future.” The guidance ends there, and it is through case law that there is no uniform formula to help divorcing couples.
At the start of the matter, we will ask you about your lifestyle, the home and general style in which you live, details of your income, jobs, personal debts held, school fees, and you will be given a sheet to set out your housing costs and personal costs.
It is necessary to get a true and accurate budget — in negotiations it would be best to try to agree the budget levels with your husband or wife. It is then a question of trying to agree a level of provision that will meet your shortfall needs, followed by a cross-check to establish the effect of that payment on the paying person, i.e. whether in the round it is the right and fair figure for them to pay.
The head of the family law team analyses the current considerations when the court is required to look at where the children will live, and whether it is appropriate to make an order which provides for the sharing of those arrangements.
How long will this be paid for?
This is always a very emotional subject for husbands and wives — as some feel that maintenance should be paid until death or remarriage, and others believe that there should be a cut-off point, say for a few years only. Some say that the ongoing long term provision greatly affects a new relationship.
It is right that whenever a court is considering maintenance provision, whether agreed or contested, it has a duty to consider whether it is appropriate to make those payments for a period which is sufficient to enable the receiving person to adjust to the money stopping.
So the court is obliged to consider making a maintenance order for a specific term of years, some of the key dates could be when the children start senior school, or GCSE’s/A levels, or university.
The court can, though, provide a safety net, by enabling the term to be extended, if there are special reasons why the maintenance should continue beyond the cut-off date. If you are agreeing to a term, it is advisable to record the expectations of the future responsibilities that apply to the receiving person, for example that they are expected to re train, qualify, and increase their working hours.
So, an application to extend does carry a high threshold, and it is not wise to assume that an extension would be granted to those who have simply not achieved their stated path. It is important to state that any maintenance provision for a husband or wife automatically ends if the receiving person remarries.
It is important that you do seek legal advice on this issue, given that no one family lives their life exactly the same as another. Divorce is a life-changing event, and so it is important to establish an appropriate and fair outcome on the issue of “financial need.”
Please contact our specialist family law team, to discuss this issue, or any other issue of family law or relationship breakdown, for advice.