Can I afford to get divorced?

When a married couple or civil partners separate, one of the biggest worries is that instead of having two incomes to pay the bills there will only be one.  Sometimes there can be a shortfall between what you have and what you need, with no immediate way of plugging the gap.

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This is where spousal maintenance becomes relevant because it provides a way of ensuring your former partner continues to support you until you are able to stand on your own two feet.

Robert Bellhouse, family law expert at Ware & Kay Solicitors in York & Wetherby explains how to get spousal maintenance if you need it.

"Spousal maintenance is the official term for money paid to you by your former spouse or civil partner to help you cope with the financial upheaval caused when you divorce or dissolve a civil partnership" says Robert.

"It is for your benefit, to help you cope.  It is entirely separate from child support or child maintenance, which is money paid to you for the benefit of your children".

How do I get support from my ex?

There are two ways to get spousal maintenance: the first is to reach an agreement with your former spouse or civil partner that it should be paid and the amount you should receive; the second, if agreement cannot be reached, is to ask the court to intervene and determine how much you should receive.

You should always try to reach an agreement out of court if you can because this will be quicker and cheaper.  Talk to your solicitor about mediation or collaborative law as a way to achieve this.

How much am I entitled to?

The amount of money you are entitled to will depend on your circumstances and on those of your former spouse or civil partner.

To assess what is needed, and to determine what your former partner can afford to pay, it is important that you both make a list of how much money you have coming in each month and how much you have to pay out.  Based on these figures it should be possible to agree a payment schedule that works for you both.  If not, the information contained in the list can be given to the court for an assessment to be made on your behalf.

What will happen if the court becomes involved?

If you have to go to court, it is likely that a temporary order will be made initially to tide you over until the court is able to consider matters fully.  It may be for a sum which is more or less than the court ultimately decides you are entitled to.

Where the court agrees that spousal maintenance is needed, the amount to be paid and the period for which payments should continue will be set out in a formal court order.  This will usually last for a limited period because it is only intended to provide support until you are able to adjust to becoming financially independent.

Payments under a spousal maintenance order will automatically end if you remarry or enter a new civil partnership.  They will also end if your former spouse or civil partner dies.  It is also likely that they will end if you cohabit with another person for a set period of time.

Published: August 2018

Contact us

If you need advice about spousal maintenance, or any other family law matter, please contact Robert Bellhouse on 01904 716062 or email robert.bellhouse@warekay.co.uk