Changing or Modifying Spousal Maintenance.
One of the elements that may need be determined during a divorce is that of spousal maintenance, also known as periodical payments. Such a decision is made between the divorcing parties as a part of a wider financial settlement or ordered by the Court. Spousal maintenance is entirely separate to any child maintenance that is being paid. This article will discuss how to change spousal maintenance and the associated pitfalls of spousal maintenance.
Spousal maintenance is the term given to the weekly, monthly or yearly payments that a husband or wife makes to the other following a divorce. It can be paid for a set period or for the remainder of the parties’ lives. Spousal maintenance ends if the person receiving the payment remarries or if either party dies.
The calculation of spousal maintenance can be quite complex. There are no set rules and each case needs to be determined on its own circumstances. It is not payable in every case.
If an order for spousal maintenance is made, and the financial circumstances of one of the parties changes, then that party can go back to court to ask for maintenance to be varied or brought to an end. The chances of success must be weighed up before any application is made. There are a number of reasons the spousal maintenance amount can be varied or suspended. Some examples are:-
(i) the spouse paying the spousal maintenance seeks for payments to be reduced or suspended due to losing their job
(ii) the spouse paying the spousal maintenance asks for maintenance to be reduced or brought to an end as the recipient’s financial circumstances have improved; for example, the recipient gets a highly paid job or starts cohabiting with someone else.
(iii) the recipient may ask for the spousal maintenance to be increased if the payer’s financial circumstances improve or their own financial circumstances become difficult.
Another circumstance in which spousal maintenance can be changed is where there is enough money available to pay any remaining spousal maintenance as a lump sum rather than continue with monthly payments. This is known as capitalising the payments, and either party can ask for this. Any changes must be agreed by the Court.
It is important to note that there are some associated pitfalls with spousal maintenance both for the recipient and for the spouse paying the spousal maintenance. Some of the pitfalls associated with the recipient are:-
Continued financial dependence on your former spouse, which will be a problem in the event your former spouse fails to make such payments.
Spousal maintenance may affect your entitlement to benefits
Maintenance ends if you remarry or if your former spouse dies
It is important to take advice in order to understand the best options available to you with regards to spousal maintenance. Therefore, it is wise to hire Lancaster solicitors who specialise in family law matters.