What is Spousal Maintenance? Are you entitled to it or will you have to pay it? How is it calculated? How long is it payable for?
Tamsin Caine talks to Katie McCann, Family Lawyer from Knights, about this whole subject.
(The transcript has been created by an AI, apologies for any mistakes)
Tamsin Caine 0:06
Hi, and welcome to the Smart Divorce podcast. In series three, we’re going to be answering some of the questions that we regularly get asked about divorce and about separating your finances. Today we’re talking spousal maintenance with Katie McCann, from knights, you’ll learn about what’s best and maintenance is have some idea of how it might be calculated, and how long it might be payable for. So if this might affect you, please let us know.
Katie, thank you for joining me today. So today we’re going to talk about spousal maintenance. So it’s one of those projects that I get asked about all the time. So I thought we’d cover off some of the questions that we often get asked. So start off just by introducing yourself very briefly, and then people know who you are.
Katie McCann 1:11
So I’m Katie, Katie McCann, and I’m a family law partner at nights PLC. So I’m based in Winslow in Manchester, primarily. And I specialise in all aspects of family law, but particularly I specialise in the financial aspects when people get divorced.
Tamsin Caine 1:32
Fantastic. So spousal maintenance is a bit different different to child maintenance, isn’t it? So when might it be payable.
Katie McCann 1:41
So spousal maintenance is payable, where you’ve got the husband and the wife, and there is a disparity in the income positions between the two of them. So let’s say for example, the husband has worked for the last 20 years, he’s in a really good job, he’s earning a good salary, but his wife who stayed at home to look after the children isn’t able to get back into the world of work, because she’s been disadvantaged for whatever reason. So that’s a classic example of where there is a disparity in their respective income positions. So in those circumstances, if there wasn’t enough capital to buy a clean break, we’d be expecting the husband there to pay ongoing maintenance to to his wife.
Tamsin Caine 2:34
Okay, so how do you work out how it’s calculated?
Katie McCann 2:40
So this is the age old question that we get asked all the time. And I’m going to say and this is this is our little mantra, isn’t it? So it depends on lots and lots of different circumstances. But in a nutshell, how we calculate it is we look at what is this party’s income and expenditure? What is this party’s income and expenditure? How much does this party need? And can this party afford to pay? So those are the very basic standard pillars, if you like what we talk about when we’re looking at spousal maintenance, what happens sometimes is you will get one party, setting out a wish list of things that they say that they need, when actually they don’t need them at all. And it can be issues like that, that make the issue of spousal maintenance, thorny and a bit difficult to actually work out. Because whilst we might agree what the principle should be, a lot of the time, we don’t agree about some of the things that somebody says they need. So we end up having, we end up having discussions, shall we say about that?
Tamsin Caine 4:06
And so, I know, it’s complicated, and we’ve got these kind of needs and so on. If one of the best the party that’s earning more, for example, if they’ve moved on with their life, and they’ve perhaps got another partner and they’re moving in with that other part. Is that going to impact the amount that they are able to afford, say they’ve bought a much bigger house, they’ve got a big mortgage, their expenditures perhaps increased because of that. How does that impact things because that that seems a little unfair, if that was then taken into account.
Katie McCann 4:45
So it does impact things it does, because like I’ve just said it factors into what does this person need, but what’s the ability of the other party to pay so if the other party how moved on. So we’re talking, there’s a number of years here between separation and where we are. And there is a new partner and there is a new house those expenses, so the new mortgage and their contribution towards it, yes will be taken into account as one of the their expenses and one of their liabilities that need to be factored into the overall equation. Lots of time, lots of times we get asked, is the new partners income going to get taken into consideration? So again, it depends on how long that relationships been going on for Is it an established relationship? So a lot of the time people might have formed a new relationship that’s actually not that old. They don’t really live together, you know, they might stay in each other’s houses a couple nights a week or whatever. But is that an established enough relationship for there to be full disclosure of that new party’s assets? Probably not, in those circumstances. But if we’ve got a set of circumstances where a new house has been brought together, they’ve got children they’ve moved on, then yes, absolutely. That new partners income and assets get taken into consideration.
Tamsin Caine 6:19
Wow, I bet not many people know that. So sparkling spousal maintenance, how long is that usually paid for?
Katie McCann 6:31
So these days, the courts like to achieve a clean break as soon as they possibly can. So in other words, as long as there isn’t going to be any undue hardship to the receiving party, when they’re transitioning, then if a clean break can be achieved, within a set term period of time, ie, you know, the child’s head, and we’re going to agree to pay maintenance until the child finishes full time secondary education. So that’s going to give that particular parent enough time to re educate enough time to get back into into the world of work, etc, then the court likes to if it can impose a term, and then a clean break, as soon as he possibly can. It used to be that there would be what are called joint lives maintenance orders, where if a party had been married for a long period of time, some one of the parties was really financially disadvantaged, because of that relationship. They were nearing retirement or there was absolutely no prospect of one of those parties going back to work. And then a court could impose a joint lives maintenance order, which would effectively be in place on till the receiving party got married again, or somebody dallied. So it’s a very, very draconian order. does it allow people to move on from that relationship? No, it doesn’t, for all intents and purposes. And at the moment, I’m dealing with a variation of a very, very long standing maintenance order, which in my view, should have been terminated many years ago. But it’s one of those older cases that we’re we’re looking at, and we’re reviewing that at this point. Drink labs meets, which told us can still be made, but the Leaning of the court is very much to try to achieve a clean break in the shortest period of time that it can.
Tamsin Caine 8:50
Yeah, to enable people to move on which, which just makes it both parties to move on that makes that makes sense. Is there anything else that we should know about spousal maintenance?
Katie McCann 9:02
I don’t think so. It’s a it’s a tricky area. Townsend is a tricky area, and it’s one that tends to kind of track alongside dealing with the capital. And like I said, the main, the main thing that tends to cause disputes is not whether or not spousal maintenance should be paid. It’s how much it should be, and for how long it should be. And those are the two things that we tend to, that we tend to argue about. I don’t like to use the word argue, because it’s not necessarily my Mo. But those are the two things that we tend to, we tend to have to bat around between us before we can reach a compromise position
Tamsin Caine 9:44
is a tricky one and I know that I had a client who had an order where it was capitalised, spousal maintenance and because it had been capitalised the mortgage company then wouldn’t take it into consideration when looking at The mortgage amount that whether they could borrow on a mortgage. So there’s lots of considerations when you are looking at it means spousal maintenance on
Katie McCann 10:10
many, many, but it’s just one. It’s just one of those factors that you know if there is a disparity between the parties from an income perspective that we find ourselves dealing with very often.
Tamsin Caine 10:25
That’s brilliant. Thank you so much for that, Katie. That was great. Thank you for listening to the smart divorce podcast. If you’d like details of our guest today or of myself so you can get in touch. Please check out the programme notes. Many thanks. See you again soon.