Family Law Update: Maintenance

A recent case in the High Court has provided guidance on what should be considered when a spouse applies for  maintenance payments.


Spousal maintenance, put simply, amounts to payments made from one spouse (‘Payer’) to another (‘Payee’)on a regular basis so that the Payee may continue to cope financially and transition to a financially independent life. Such payments are often made when one spouse cares for the children following divorce or if, prior to divorce, one spouse was supported financially by the other.


The guidelines set out by the Court will help family lawyers determine what criteria should resolve the issue of maintenance. They are also useful for divorcees when considering what type of information, along with supporting documentation, they could produce to assist their lawyers in making a good case.


Points to consider are:


  1. Why should the Payer be liable for the financial maintenance of the Payee?

Maintenance may be appropriate where, for example,: one has been a home-maker and forsaken their career, one has earned significantly more than the other and that person has come to rely on the additional income


  1. What are the Payees’ needs?

The focus is on needs not wants


  1. Will the Payee suffer any significant financial hardship of maintenance is not paid?


  1. What level of maintenance is needed, and how long is it needed for?

Emphasis is placed on the transition to independent life and a reasonable term should be considered (maintenance to be paid for, say, five years) unless undue hardship would be suffered after the order has expired


  1. What standard of living did the family have during marital life?

This is relevant to how much maintenance should be paid, but is not the decisive factor


  1. Does the Payee have to produce a detailed itemised budget that will be scrutinised for errors and economics?

No. The court say that a global view should be taken of the total budget and consider whether it represents a ‘fair proportion of the Payers’ available income’


Very often maintenance depends on balancing the Payer’s available income against the Payee’s financial needs.


If you believe that you are entitled to spousal maintenance, you should make an appointment to see one of our expert family lawyers who will be able to discuss your case further.