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How long is spousal maintenance paid for?

By , on Friday May 31, 2024 at 2:39 pm

Spousal maintenance refers to an amount of money that is paid from one spouse to another during divorce. The payment is made from the spouse with the higher income to support the spouse with the lower income. Whilst spousal maintenance is not always payable, it will be ordered by the Courts where necessary.

Spousal maintenance can occasionally be capitalised, so it is paid as a single lump sum, but normally, it is paid in regular, monthly instalments. The amount of time that the support can be paid for can vary depending on several factors and conditions.

Our family law experts can advise on all aspects of spousal maintenance, including advising on how long it will last based on the circumstances of your divorce.

When does spousal maintenance start being paid?

You and your former partner will not be required to provide spousal support to one another during a separation, though you will both need to keep meeting the needs of any children you have.

If you are unable to meet your reasonable outgoings following a separation, you may be able to apply for interim spousal maintenance. This is a periodical payment that is made pending a fully concluded financial remedy order. It is not intended to meet all your outgoings, just your reasonable outgoings, generously interpreted.

Spousal maintenance payments will usually start once the divorce has been finalised and both parties are living independently of one another.

How long does spousal maintenance last?

If a lump sum resulting in a clean break is not used, there are three types of spousal maintenance which can be implemented. These are:

  • Lifetime spousal maintenance orders
  • Fixed-term spousal maintenance orders
  • Nominal spousal maintenance orders

These types of spousal maintenance orders can all last for varying amounts of time and will be subject to negotiations between both parties. There is no set formula for working out how long spousal maintenance is paid for, which means that payments can be made indefinitely, for a fixed period of time, or until a trigger event occurs, such as retirement. You will need specialist legal advice to make an application for spousal maintenance and to ensure you apply for the most appropriate type of maintenance order to meet your needs.

A lifetime maintenance order, which will be paid for the rest of the recipient’s life, may be appropriate after a long marriage and where it is decided that there is no realistic prospect of the recipient being able to obtain financial independence or returning to work.

A fixed-term spousal maintenance order is, as you might expect, in place for a specified amount of time. It can be extendable or non-extendable and is intended to fund the recipient whilst they make adjustments to their living arrangements in order to move to financial independence.

Nominal spousal maintenance orders see a nominal amount (as low as £1 per year) be paid in order to keep a recipient’s claim open as a safety net.

No matter which type of spousal maintenance order is used, spousal support will be terminated if the recipient remarries, or if either party passes away. It does not necessarily stop if the recipient starts cohabiting with a partner without being married, though this may be a reason to make an application to reduce the payments being made.

Can someone stop paying spousal maintenance early?

If you have a spousal maintenance order in place, and you wish to stop making payments earlier than previously agreed or reduce the amount you are paying, you can negotiate this with your former partner. It might be that you want to increase the spousal maintenance you receive due to a change in your circumstances or a change in your former spouse’s circumstances.

If you are unable to come to an agreement, you will need to apply to the court.

Making an application to the court to stop paying spousal maintenance early can be very complex, so it is important that you fully understand your position and whether your circumstances warrant such an application. An experienced family lawyer will be able to advise.

Our solicitors are here for you

If you need advice about spousal maintenance and what the length of an agreement is likely to mean for your financial situation, our expert family law solicitors will be able to lend their support.

Our team can work alongside you to help you reach an agreement about spousal maintenance and any other aspects of dividing your finances, as well as help you with any court applications as and when appropriate.

To take advantage of a free 30-minute consultation with an expert local family law solicitor, call 0800 321 3832 or complete our quick online form.

Ian Giddings
Family Solicitor Coventry

Blog Author - Ian Giddings

Ian GiddingsIan Giddings

Ian Giddings is a family solicitor with Woolley & Co, based in North Warwickshire. Ian offers a range of services including advice on divorce, separation, financial settlements and disputes regarding children.


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