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What is spousal maintenance?

Spousal maintenance (also known as periodical payments) means regular income payments to support a former husband or wife. Spousal maintenance may be used to assist in achieving a fair outcome on divorce, nullity or judicial separation. The court will take into account the principles of needs, compensation and sharing when determining whether spousal maintenance is required.

A spousal periodical payments order is a continuing obligation for one party to pay the other a weekly or monthly sum. In some cases, periodical payments can be secured by a capital deposit, where the paying party makes an upfront payment into a fund; the money in the fund is then used to pay the party receiving the payments. In financial proceedings the courts in England and Wales have a wide discretion as to how they deal with each case, and it will consider the individual facts of each case when determining the duration and amount of any spousal maintenance it thinks should be paid.

Spousal periodical payments may be made for such term as the court thinks fit. The term for which spousal periodical payments are made can be extendable or non-extendable. If the term is non-extendable, the court can direct that the party receiving the payment may not apply to extend the term of the order. If the term is extendable, there must be ”exceptional justification” for the term to be extended.

Regardless of the duration of any spousal maintenance order, if the party receiving payment remarries or enters into a civil partnership the payments will usually cease.

Spousal periodical payments will stop if either party dies, unless they are secured periodical payments, in which case they will only stop if the party receiving the payment dies. If the paying party dies, the secured periodical payments will continue to be paid to the surviving party out of the capital deposit that was paid by the deceased party at the outset.

Spousal maintenance can be a complex area of law and therefore if you wish to discuss this further we would advise that you speak with one of our specialist matrimonial solicitors.