The Court has the power to make Orders providing for one party to pay to the other ongoing spousal maintenance. The Courts refer to these as periodical payments. The Court can order that these payments continue for a fixed term (either extendable or non-extendable) or alternatively until remarriage, death or further order (known as a ‘joint lives maintenance’ order).
Fixed Term Maintenance Orders
A fixed term order is the more common order in recent times. The Courts have seen a significant shift away from joint lives maintenance orders which historically might continue for years and in fact decades. These can be for any set period hence the name fixed term. This is slightly misleading given that the Court do have the power to order that they are either extendable or non-extendable.
Quantum of Maintenance
The quantum of maintenance is calculated by reference to what a party’s ‘reasonable needs’ are. In a nutshell it is necessary to establish what the party seeking spousal maintenance needs and what their income from all sources is in order to assess what the shortfall is. It is then necessary to establish whether the other party can afford to plug that shortfall.
The existence of spousal maintenance affords the financially more vulnerable spouse genuine financial support so that they aren’t simply cut off and left to fend for themselves.
Variation of Maintenance and Capitalisation
During the course of a spousal maintenance order either party can also apply to the Court for a variation of maintenance (up or down) especially should there be a change in either party’s circumstances i.e. they lose their job. It is even possible to apply to capitalise maintenance so that you receive a lump sum rather than a monthly payment. This can often apply where the paying party receives a significant lump sum.