Solicitor Brigitta-Lizel Danso, in our leading Family Law team, explains interim spousal maintenance.
As part of the divorce process, we assist our clients with resolving their financial claims against one another and reaching a financial settlement. Where needed, the financial settlement can include spousal maintenance, which is where one party financially supports the other, usually on a monthly basis. You may find our blog article, ‘What is Spousal Maintenance and How is it Calculated?’ helpful.
Often when spouses divorce, one party may have been earning much less than the other, and once they separate may need financial support for a period of time. Temporary support provided while the divorce process is ongoing is known as ‘interim spousal maintenance.’
Once divorce proceedings have started, one spouse may have a claim for interim spousal maintenance, depending on their circumstances. When parties start to separate their finances, the financially weaker party may not receive enough or any income to meet their needs. For example, if one household is dividing into two, the non-earning or lower-earning spouse might need help paying the bills for a time.
The level of interim maintenance required depends on the receiving party’s needs and the ability of the paying party to support them. This is assessed by preparing budgets to establish what one party needs and what the other might reasonably be able to pay. The needs of children under 18 are included within these budgets.
Parties might try to reach agreement themselves, in mediation or via their solicitors as to the appropriate level of interim maintenance, which is then paid until the final financial arrangements are put in place.
If the level of interim spousal maintenance cannot be agreed, the spouse in need of support can apply to court for a Judge to make a decision and provide an interim order to take immediate effect pending a final financial order. Parties often seek a costs award from the court if the case proceeds this far – to recover their legal costs from the other spouse who forced them to make the application.
The issue of spousal maintenance can also be settled using arbitration – a non-court method of dispute resolution where parties appoint a private ‘judge’ to decide their dispute. The advantage of arbitration is that it is usually a speedier, more cost-effective route than pursuing your case at court. A potential snag is that both parties have to agree to appoint the arbitrator, which doesn’t always happen.
Interim spousal maintenance provides the financially weaker party to a divorce with certainty that they will be able to financially support themselves throughout the separation process. A key issue in considering an interim maintenance claim is proportionality of costs – will you spend more on legal costs than would be received from the interim maintenance claimed?
If you are in doubt about how to support yourself during a divorce or separation, our specialist Family Law team can help.
For further information or legal advice, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0118 951 6800.
This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.