Spousal Maintenance under English law

Just as in France, a spouse has the right when divorcing in England/Wales to ask their husband or wife for financial support to be paid to them at the end of the proceedings once the decree absolute has been granted.

It is also possible to receive financial support during the proceedings in the form of an ‘interim order for maintenance’.

If you are able to agree with your spouse on the financial terms of your separation, your divorce will not only prove to be less traumatic but you will also save a lot of time and money, as divorce proceedings are expensive. In this case your lawyer will draft your agreement into a provisional order and submit it to the judge for approval.

However, if you fail to reach an agreement, the judge has the power to issue an order containing financial provisions or asset adjustments that will alter the way the assets are structured in such a way as to favour one spouse over the other.

The judge may order the following:

  • periodical payments,
  • a lump sum order payable in one or several instalments,
  • orders relating to your marital home or any other property, e.g. transfer of property order, settlement of property order, order for sale,
  • orders regarding pension, e.g. pension split.

As well as taking into account a range of criteria listed in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, the judge must also take into consideration all the facts of the case, and particularly the welfare of any children under 18. The judge will endeavour to make the fairest and most reasonable decision possible for each party.

The judge will base the decision on the following criteria:

  • Income, ability to earn income, assets and other financial resources;
  • Financial needs, obligations and responsibilities;
  • Previous standard of living;
  • Age of the spouses and length of the marriage;
  • Any mental or physical disability;
  • Contributions to the family well-being, including household maintenance and family care;
  • Behaviour of the spouses, insofar as it would be inequitable not to take it into consideration.

You will need to provide all the necessary information related to your financial situation (see ‘Divorcing in England & Wales’ section).
The judge will examine all of the documents provided by the parties together with the outcomes of any expert assessments that may have been made. The judge will also take into account all the answers you and your spouse gave during the hearings along with clarifications provided by your solicitor/barrister.

The judge may decide to effect a clean break between the spouses at the end of the divorce in order for each party to be financially independent from the other as quickly as possible.
This option may be considered when the paying spouse is wealthy enough to pay a one-off lump sum payment, putting an end to all future claims.

This option may be more advantageous than periodical maintenance, which may be owed for a long period of time after the divorce is decreed.

However, it is important to bear in mind that periodical payments usually stop when an ex-spouse remarries or dies, which means that the ‘clean break’ option has some drawbacks as well as advantages for both the paying spouse and the beneficiary.