In some divorce cases the Court may order spousal maintenance. This is so that ongoing maintenance is paid from one party to the other where it has been determined that the payee has a need for regular maintenance. This can be for a fixed period or it can be for life.

However, either party can apply to the Court for variation (an uplift, decrease, or cessation of payments), or capitalisation (the maintenance element to be paid in a lump sum amount to provide a clean break). The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, gives the Court the power to look at variation of maintenance.  The Court will then look at the facts of the case and determine whether the maintenance should be increased, decreased, capitalised or stop altogether. The Court can make a tapering order so that the maintenance gradually decreases over a fixed period of time.  If there has been a material change of circumstances such as cohabitation or a significant increase in the payees income, the Court can take this into consideration. However, the Court will always consider the needs of the payee and any children.

Maintenance for joint lives can hold uncertainty for both parties because of the ability to apply back to the Court for variation (unless a Section 28 Bar order has been made). Where possible however, the Court will try and order a clean break in relation to income (save for child maintenance) so that both parties can move forward. It is sometimes appropriate to capitalise a claim so that a clean break can be achieved. Where the Court has concerns that one party may have an income need in the future which may need to be looked at at a later date, the Court can order a Nominal Maintenance Order so that a clean break is not achieved and the Court can potentially be called upon to consider income needs in the future.

Maintenance and particularly variation of maintenance is a complex area of law and requires expert advice. At Ellisons, we have Family Solicitors who have expertise in relation to this area of law, including working on up to date and recent cases in this ever changing and complex area of law. To receive advice, please contact our Family Team here.

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