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All change on Spousal Maintenance?

There used to be a greater expectation between married couples that one party, usually the husband, would pay maintenance to the other party, usually the wife, upon divorce. Husbands would often nervously see their solicitor expecting to hear the worst about a future life spent supporting an ex-spouse whom they would rarely if ever even see.

In June 2016 the Family Justice Council published the Guidance on Financial Needs on Divorce which was sent to all judges in the country and now forms the basis and framework for Spousal Maintenance claims before the courts. The main purpose in the Guidance was to achieve consistency throughout the entire country on dealing with such claims and to define what is meant by “needs”.

This latter point is of huge importance as the court will still wish to ensure that the needs of divorcing couples and in particular those with children are met, particularly where resources are modest. It remains the case that children’s needs will be paramount and the court will not hesitate to use non-matrimonial resources such as an inheritance or previously owned assets to meet such needs if this is necessary.

The Report builds upon the movement over the last few years in which the court has shown an increasing tendency to reign back spousal maintenance expectations and it is now generally accepted that such maintenance is to be considered as being for the minimum amount necessary to meet such “needs” and be for the shortest duration reasonably possible.

It remains essential to obtain full and detailed advice regarding all aspects of financial settlements on divorce and we can assist with this but it is worth highlighting that in this particular area there has been something of a sea change in favour of the paying party over recent years. Perhaps higher earning husbands need not be so nervous after all?

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