On divorce, a spouse can be ordered to pay spousal maintenance if their partner is dependent on their income. But how secure is your maintenance order and can it be changed?
Courts can make maintenance orders limited in time for example, maintenance for five years to enable you to re-train and secure full time employment. Alternatively, if a provision was made in the financial order for sharing pension assets equally then maintenance may be limited to the date of your ex-spouse’s retirement. In the case of long marriages where there is limited opportunity for re-training or employment, orders can be for ‘joint lives’.
If your order is for ‘joint lives’ then your ex-spouse cannot unilaterally stop paying spousal maintenance and if they do, you can enforce the order against them. Your spouse may however apply to the court to reduce the amount paid if their income is going to be lower than expected and they are unable to pay at the current level. The court will take into account your ex-spouse’s change in circumstances and your own and may reassess the maintenance payable.
Recent cases have tended to steer away from ‘joint lives’ orders with definite emphasis upon the expectation that a dependent spouse should, post divorce, be encouraged to obtain employment and become self sufficient in the future.
In light of the many possible outcomes for divorcing couples it is essential that you take advice from a specialist lawyer who has experience of advising and assisting in all aspects of financial settlements.