10th February 2017

Spousal maintenance – a right or a need?

Spousal maintenance is inevitably a controversial topic as the simple truth is that there will always be some who believe that they are entitled to it and others who believe equally strongly that they shouldn’t have to pay it.

These disputes are usually made worse by those ever “helpful” friends who are all too eager to offer advice on the basis of what their neighbour’s sister’s friend got!

If that were not enough to contend with, the court’s decisions are often unpredictable and sometimes even surprising! This week the Court of Appeal increased a wife’s maintenance because she had made poor financial choices using the capital she received from the divorce and as a result, she was in financial difficulties. I suspect that the majority of people would immediately consider that outcome unfair, possibly even those who are currently in receipt of maintenance, although they may only admit to that in secret!

So, in a world where women fight to be treated equally with men and where the law is actively trying to shift towards maintenance being an interim tool for re-building life after divorce rather than a guaranteed lifetime income, how did this decision come about?

The simple answer is that there is no standard approach to or formula for maintenance and so decisions about ongoing maintenance turn on the facts of each individual case. This is frustrating, but true.

However, it is my hope that in raising such a controversial topic and thus running the risk of alienating one side of this argument, people in this situation will realise that maintenance is not a straight forward issue and they will take professional advice from a sensible family lawyer.

If you would like to discuss issues raised in this article or would like further family law advice, we offer a free half an hour consultation with a member of our team to allow you to discuss your situation and obtain initial guidance on the best way forward for you.