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Divorce Myth 11 - If you have not worked for a long time, your spouse will have to pay you maintenance for the rest of your life

View profile for Yolande Millar
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Divorce Myth 11 - If you have not worked for a long time, your spouse will have to pay you maintenance for the rest of your life

Spousal maintenance is a claim that can be made when dealing with finances on divorce. The level and duration are case specific depending on individual circumstances.

How is spousal maintenance calculated?

When calculating spousal maintenance, each case is considered on its own merits and would depend on the income available and the needs of the spouse seeking maintenance. The spouse who is seeking maintenance would have to establish that regular maintenance was needed. 

Do I have to go back to work?

There is an expectation on both parties to maximise their earning capacity, whether this is by way of benefits or income through employment. Where a spouse has not worked for a number of years, for whatever reason, the onus will be on them to find suitable employment. For example, spousal maintenance can be agreed to assist during a period of retraining. The court is clear that a clean break (i.e. where no spousal maintenance is paid) is beneficial to spouses and therefore the arrangement for spousal maintenance is often time restricted so that the party claiming maintenance can eventually be independent financially. That is not to say the court will never award spousal maintenance for the rest of an individual’s life, but it is becoming less and less common.

What if I cannot work due to my health?

There would still be the expectation that earning capacity is maximised, however this may be that additional benefits should be claimed. It is worth noting that where a medical condition can impact on a spouse’s ability to work, this can impact on the duration of the payments.

If you are unsure about your own position regarding spousal maintenance please contact a member of our divorce and separation team. I am based at our Chelmsford office and can be contacted on 01245 453878 or alternatively email me on yolande.millar@birkettlong.co.uk.

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