Securing fair spousal maintenance support after divorce in the UK

What you need to know about spousal maintenance and why a ‘meal ticket for life’ is something we can no longer expect

What is spousal maintenance?

  • Spousal maintenance is the financial amount awarded by the Courts to be paid by the higher-earning spouse to the lower-earning/no income spouse following divorce.
  • Spousal maintenance is only awarded if the lower-earning spouse cannot support themselves without any financial contribution from the higher-earning spouse.
  • The term of the spousal maintenance agreement can be awarded to a specific period of time, such as life or when retirement occurs and pensions can be drawn.
  • If the recipient re-marries then they will lose their right to continue to receive the maintenance payments, but it does not end by simply cohabiting.

The sum fixed for the spousal maintenance payments can be varied at a later date if circumstances have changed and this can only be done through a court order.

It sounds relatively straightforward, however, one interesting case to note is that of Waggott v Waggott [2018] EWCA Civ 727. This particular case involved Karen Waggott who was the ex-wife of William Waggott, the very successful Finance Director of TUI Travel. She had already been awarded a divorce settlement of £9.76m which included a pension on their divorce plus £175,000 per annum for life. Not content with this spousal maintenance sum, she appealed and attempted to bolster her financial award by asking for an increased share of her ex-husband’s bonuses, seeking a variation of the maintenance order worth another £23,000 per annum to her. Her ex-husband cross-appealed on the level of maintenance and the length of time it was payable and he won with the court ordering a non-extendable three-year term. Unfortunately, this landmark case will now be used by family lawyers as a way to obtain a clean break for the higher-earning spouse.

This case shows us that the ‘meal ticket for life’ via the joint lives maintenance order is something that lower-earning spouses can now no longer hope to rely upon from the English court system. This leaves us with the question that for those married couples who have been able to build up a good level of capital, and where an equal split of capital meets each of the couple’s needs but no more, is it right that the lower-earning spouse immediately has to draw down on their capital whereas the higher-earning spouse can avoid doing so as they can rely on a continued and significant income going forward?

Here at Sheryl Perry Solicitors, we can advise on all aspects of spousal maintenance including:

  • Finding out if you are entitled to spousal maintenance
  • Negotiating any spousal maintenance sum during your divorce proceedings
  • Dealing with your application to the family court for spousal maintenance
  • Making amendments to your spousal maintenance agreement
  • Pursuing non-payment of spousal maintenance

If you feel that you need some professional support and sound legal advice on spousal maintenance, please arrange a FREE informal consultation with Sheryl Perry, our divorce and financial expert. Contact us today and make an appointment on 01245 463243 or email sheryl.perry@sherylperrysolicitors.uk

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