Once you decide to separate from your spouse or partner, you have to make some financial decisions. You have to decide how to divide property and assets. If you have children, then you need to work out a child support plan.
However, you might also be entitled to some financial help of your own in the form of spousal maintenance payments. Here, your ex commits to giving you extra financial help.
What do you need to know about spousal maintenance?
1. You Have to Meet Qualifying Conditions
Don't assume that you automatically qualify for spousal maintenance even if your former spouse or partner contributed more to your joint finances during your relationship. This kind of maintenance isn't really assessed that way.
You need to prove that you can't support yourself on your own. The payments you want should be reasonable in terms of the relationship, and your ex has to be in a position to make them.
For example, say you gave up your job when you had children. You've since gone back to work part-time; however, you don't earn enough to support yourself. Here, a court might give you spousal maintenance payments on the basis that it is reasonable that your ex pays towards your living costs when you bear the main burden of looking after their children.
2. You Can Negotiate Different Types of Payments
While many people receive spousal maintenance as regular weekly or monthly payments, you can take this allowance in different ways. For example, your ex might make a general cash payment that you can spend as you choose. Or, they might give you money to specifically cover your mortgage or rent costs.
Sometimes, you can also negotiate a larger portion of a property settlement in lieu of regular spousal maintenance. Or, you can accept a one-off lump sum payment from your former spouse or partner.
3. Your Payments Can Change Over Time
Spousal maintenance doesn't last forever. Sometimes, a court will give you an end date, say when your last child goes to college. Other times, you or your ex can apply to change or stop the payments.
For example, if you start to earn enough to support yourself, then you might be happy for your maintenance payments to stop. If you remarry, then your ex might want to stop paying to support you now you're in a new relationship.
You and your ex might find it hard to come to a financial agreement that suits both of you. To get the best outcome, consult family law solicitors as early in the separation or divorce process as you can. They can talk you through how spousal maintenance works and help you work out if you might qualify for payments.