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Who is entitled to spousal maintenance?


Am I entitled to spousal maintenance.

When a couple separate whether one party is entitled to claim spousal maintenance from the other is a common concern. There are several factors that need to be considered:

  • Length of marriage
  • Whether each party is working
  • The age of the parties
  • Who is looking after any children of the marriage
  • Can both parties manage financially without spousal maintenance?

It’s important to understand that spousal maintenance is just that, financial support from one spouse to another paid on the breakdown of a marriage. It does not apply to unmarried couples and is different to child maintenance.

The conditions under which spousal maintenance might be paid vary, as every marriage varies. If a couple have been together for a long time and one party has given up work to run the home whilst the other has developed a career and been the family breadwinner there are arguments to say that the homemaker is entitled to financial support, in the form of spousal maintenance, if the marriage breaks down and on the basis that the spouse in need cannot support themselves financially from income they have coming in from other sources.

Informal agreements about money

Many couples reach an informal agreement about spousal maintenance, perhaps agreeing to split capital assets like a house or savings in favour of the home maker, whilst the breadwinner, who has more potential to generate income and wealth on an ongoing basis takes a smaller share. In this case, spousal maintenance is deemed to have been capitalised, rather than being paid in monthly instalments.

In other cases, spousal maintenance is paid on a regular basis, intended as income to cover the living costs of the spouse receiving it.

If your ex is not willing to reach an agreement about spousal maintenance you will need to ask the courts to consider your case and they will decide whether you are entitled to spousal maintenance. If they think so they will make a court order for spousal maintenance to be paid by your ex.

Questions to help you decide whether you are entitled to spousal maintenance

To establish whether you are likely to be entitled to spousal maintenance you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your financial needs and income potential? Can these needs be met without the support of your ex?
  • Have you been married for a long time and given up work to support your spouse or family by becoming the home maker?
  • Are you of an age where establishing a career, to deliver the kind of lifestyle you have been used to, would be difficult?
  • Would you be financially better off having a financial clean break and lump sum from your ex, rather than maintenance?
  • Are you prepared to take your case to court, if your ex will not agree to spousal maintenance?
  • Are you planning to re-marry? (if you do you will lose your right to spousal maintenance)

As is often the case with family law, every case is different. It is therefore important to take advice from a divorce and family lawyer. They will be able to consider your circumstances and advise on the likely success of your case.


Sue Harwood
Family Law Solicitor, Cornwall


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I am a retired Police officer, having retired after 25yrs service and I subsequently receive a I’ll health pension, along with a personal injury award…After 35yrs of marriage I divorced and attended a final financial hearing and a deputy District Judge awarded my ex 40% of my I’ll health pension and I was also ordered to sign over the matrimonial home which was mortgage free without receiving any of the substantial asset ..I was also ordered to pay 50% of my injury award in spousal maintenance, and consequently while my ex wife is now living mortgage and rent free while still retaining an ability to work I am having to apply for an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) The spousal maintenance payment was a life term payment and I feel the order was extremely harsh and unfair, and a pension share would have been sufficient…I feel that fairness does not seem to have been an element in my case…..note I served as aPolice constable ...

By Paul P on Thursday February 1, 2018

Dear Paul

Thank you for your recent comment on my blog post from last year, I am sorry to hear you were unsatisfied at the outcome of your proceedings.  I am not sure when you got your Court Order there is a right of appeal if brought within 21 days of the date of the Order.  However, by way of advice, you cannot appeal just because you feel the judgement was unfair, you have to show there was wrongdoing or that the Order was unjust because of a serious procedural or other irregularity in the proceedings.  If you feel you have grounds for appeal and are within the time limit, then please contact me direct and we can arrange a time to discuss your options on a free of charge basis, I cannot comment further without knowing the facts of your case.

By Sue Harwood on Friday February 2, 2018

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