Sir Nicholas Mostyn recently spoke at the Devon and Somerset Law Society on the issue of spousal maintenance, highlighting the future of how the courts will deal with these payments.
A spousal maintenance award is properly made where the parties’ Financial Statements and supporting evidence illustrates that choices made during the marriage have generated hardship and financial need on behalf of the claiming party. The duration of the parties’ marriage and the age of the parties’ children are central factors to consider.
Any award should only really be made in reference to the claiming party’s financial needs. In every case, the court must consider when to end periodical payments, to allow for a reasonable transition into financial independence for the claiming party. A fixed term is preferable unless the receiving party was considered unable to adjust to that transition without undue hardship to the ending of payments. It is important to note that the court consider a degree of financial hardship in making the transition to independence as acceptable.
The marital standard of living is relevant to the court when they consider the level of payments for maintenance, but in and of itself, it is not decisive. The standard of living will be balanced by the court against the desired overall objective of financial independence of the parties.
The essential task of the judge is not simply to examine the individual items in the claiming party’s income, but to also stand back and look at the global total and to ask if it represents a fair proportion of the paying party’s available income.
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