Spousal Maintenance – Unravelling the Mystery
People often talk about the importance of obtaining a “Clean Break” from their spouse in divorce proceedings, in other words a complete financial cut from each other. Sometimes however, a Clean Break is not appropriate particularly where one of the parties has on-going income needs that they cannot meet on their own. Where this situation arises, consideration should be given as to whether or not that spouse has a claim for Spousal Maintenance, i.e. monthly maintenance paid from one spouse to the other following divorce.
There are however many factors to be considered in calculating whether or not there is a claim. The length of the marriage is relevant; where the marriage has been short it is more difficult. The age and working capacity of each party is important, for example where one party is aged 60 and is a low earner they may have more of a need to claim maintenance as opposed to a spouse who is aged 30 and a high earner.
After the right to a claim has been established, the spouse with the claim must be able to properly quantify their income needs. This will mean looking at exactly what his or her monthly expenses are and ensuring that in particular housing needs, such as mortgage or rental payments are included. These monthly income needs are then compared to their monthly income received in order to assess the deficit.
If however, the other spouse does not have the means to meet the deficit the matter may end there. At this point a similar exercise is carried out so that a proper assessment of the other party’s income can be made. If there is a “surplus” to their needs, the client has proper ground for a claim.
A Spousal Maintenance Order, if made, can be limited in time e.g. payable for 2 years or can be for life and in some cases can be a critical factor.