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Problem with divorce maintenance payments

Agreeing to divorce is never an easy process, even if the split is mutually agreeable and amicable in every sense.

No matter how straightforward you imagine the divorce may be, a clean break is undoubtedly the best outcome for both parties.

However, depending on the circumstances, this may not always be possible, and not just when children are involved.

We look at how the law treats the concept of maintenance payment and ask whether they are still as relevant in today’s society.

When are maintenance payments due

When a divorce goes through, the higher earner in the marriage retains the responsibility to care for any children financially and to ensure that their standard of living is affected as little as possible by the split.

This means that when a couple has had children who have not yet become adults and financially independent, a clean break is usually impossible.

However, maintenance is not only due when the marriage has produced children; in many cases the wife may also be entitled to receive maintenance payments too.

This may sound like a crazy idea, after all, why should you be responsible for looking after the financial well being of someone you are no longer married to?

The reason behind maintenance payments is that whilst the other partner in the relationship may not have contributed as many obvious qualities to the financial well being of the partnership, they may have played a fundamental role in different ways.

For example, the woman may have given up her career to raise the children or possibly to provide administrative support to her husband’s business.

When the time comes to split, she will have no assets of her own and no experience in the labour market, a combination which will damn the woman to poverty.

The divorce courts recognise the contribution made to the main breadwinner’s career by the spouse and award maintenance payments based on a number of factors including:

  • The lifestyle being led prior to the split
  • The length of the marriage
  • Individually owned assets and ability to secure their own income
  • Any special needs, such as social or medical
  • What sacrifices were made, steps taken or other responsibilities adopted in order to support the main breadwinner in their chosen career

Maintenance payments are traditionally awarded to a wife who raised children and supported her husband’s business during their marriage.

However, if the woman is the main breadwinner there is nothing to stop the courts from making the same awards to the husband if he adopted a supporting role during the marriage.

This post was written by Mark Keenan. Editor of the Divorce Online Blog and Managing Director of Online Legal Service Ltd. Mark has been writing about divorce and related subjects for over 20+ years and is an expert in legal marketing.

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